Overview of Marijuana Possession & Distribution Laws in Virginia
On July 1st of this year, several new laws adjusted Virginia laws governing the drug crimes of marijuana possession and distribution. Broadly speaking, Virginia decriminalized unlawful possession of marijuana, turning it into a civil offense without a jail sentence. Marijuana distribution laws saw several changes also, though it remains a criminal offense with the potential of extended confinement.
Possession of Marijuana in Virginia
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250.1 makes it unlawful to possess marijuana. There is an exception for approved medical use under this section, butut possession of marijuana for recreational use in Virginia remains unlawful.
Any person who knowingly possesses marijuana in violation of Section 18.2-250.1 will face civil charges. The maximum penalty is a $25 fine, which goes to the Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund.
It is vital to note the knowledge requirement of marijuana possession laws in Virginia. A person must know — or have a reason to know — that they are in possession of marijuana. Without this type of knowledge, it likely does not qualify as a violation of Section 18.2-250.1.
Distribution of Marijuana in Virginia
Code of Virginia Section 18.2-248.1 makes it illegal to distribute, sell, or otherwise give marijuana to another person. This section also prohibits any person from possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute, sell, or otherwise give it away.
Any person who violates Section 18.2-248.1 with respect to potential distribution of:
- Up to one ounce of marijuana — Will face Class 1 misdemeanor charges with the possibility of criminal fines up to $2,500 and a 12-month jail sentence;
- Between one ounce & five pounds of marijuana — Will face Class 5 felony charges with the possibility of criminal fines up to $2,500 and imprisonment for one to 10 years; or
- More than five pounds of marijuana — Will face felony charges with the possibility of criminal fines and imprisonment for five to 30 years.
Section 18.2-248.1 creates a rebuttable presumption that possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is considered personal use. Generally, this means that a person is unlikely to face distribution charges for possession of one ounce or less.
On a related note, there is a heightened punishment for repeat offenders. If a person violates Section 18.2-248.1 for a third or subsequent time — or commits a distribution crime after convictions for felony drug crimes on two previous occasions — it is a felony in Virginia. If convicted for this felony, the punishment includes a prison sentence of five years to life and criminal fines up to $500,000.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal assistance with Virginia charges for a drug crime or a similar offense, it can be exceedingly helpful to consult with a proficient Leesburg drug crimes lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have demonstrated skill and knowledge in the field of criminal defense, including drug crimes and various other offenses. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.