Possession of Marijuana in Virginia
Even though marijuana is now legal in many other states, possession remains illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That being said, Virginia does employ a separate classification for marijuana, including exceptions for medical use and law enforcement purposes. The penalty structure for marijuana possession is relatively lax, at least as compared to other drug crimes in Virginia.
Laws and Penalties for Marijuana Possession
In most circumstances, Code of Virginia 18.2-250.1 makes it unlawful to possess marijuana within the commonwealth. That being said, there is a knowledge requirement in Virginia. The alleged offender must know — or have a reason to know — that they are in possession of marijuana. Otherwise, Section 18.2-250.1 does not apply.
A single violation of Section 18.2-250.1 is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $500 in fines. A second or subsequent violation results in Class 1 misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines.
Exception for Medical Marijuana
There is an important exception under Section 18.2-250.1 concerning medical marijuana. If a licensed doctor issues a valid prescription for a diagnosed condition or disease, then a person may possess marijuana in Virginia.
Additionally, Section 18.2-250.1 addresses the possession of certain medical marijuana derivatives, such as cannabidiol and THC-A oils. In any prosecution for the possession of these oils, the alleged offender can plead an affirmative defense. Specifically, the alleged offender must demonstrate a valid prescription from a licensed doctor and for a diagnosed condition or disease. Furthermore, the alleged offender must file a written certification with the court at least 10 days before the trial begins.
For all types of medical marijuana, a valid prescription is required. If the prescription is altered — or is in the name of a different person — marijuana possession remains illegal. The same applies if the prescription comes from an unlicensed doctor. Marijuana possession with an invalid prescription may result in the criminal penalties described in the previous section.
Exception for Law Enforcement Officers
Section 18.2-250.1 also carves out another exception for law enforcement officers. These officers are allowed to possess marijuana when it is necessary to perform their duties. This exception applies to law enforcement, jail and correctional officers of any federal, state, county, city or town agency.
In practice, this exception allows law enforcement officers to seize and handle marijuana without the repercussion of criminal charges. Without this exception, law enforcement officers could face criminal charges any time they possessed marijuana for official purposes. That would make it fairly difficult to investigate and shut down illegal marijuana operations.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you have legal questions about marijuana possession in Virginia, it can be decidedly beneficial to speak with a proficient criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP understand the nuances of marijuana laws in Virginia, which helps you navigate toward an effective resolution. If you need legal help with marijuana charges or other facets of criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.