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Read the fine print. Why Chesterfield's chief calls new Virginia marijuana law 'very faulty'

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 08:14:44-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Not everyone is clear with exactly what is legal and what will remain illegal when Virginia's new marijuana laws go into effect July 1, 2021.

The Chesterfield County Police Department released an animated video to help clear up any confusion and add context.

“What we've done is everything we can do in the short notice that we received, and the expedited partial legalization of marijuana and I think it's important to qualify, that's a partial legalization,” Chesterfield Police Chief Colonel Jeffery Katz said. “We put a video out on our social media feed to help inform our community because I think a lot of people think that marijuana just has been legalized wholesale, like throughout the Commonwealth and that's absolutely not true and so there are still some practices, a lot of practices involving the consumption of marijuana that are illegal.”

The video states:

Let's be real – we've all done it.

We've all checked that little box, acknowledging we've read terms of service we've never opened, agreeing to legalese we've never looked at.

But, when it comes to Virginia's new marijuana laws, the fine print is everything.

We've all seen the headlines announcing the legalization of marijuana in Virginia, but we all know the headline isn't the whole story. Let's take a closer look.

As of July 1, 2021, in Virginia, : adults age 21 and up can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana on their person in public.

BUT, consuming marijuana in public remains illegal, as does consuming marijuana while driving or being a passenger in a vehicle.

Adults age 21 and up can legally grow up to four plants per household — not per adult, per household.

BUT, those plants can't be visible from a public way and cultivators must take steps to prevent people under age 21 from accessing them. AND, each plant must be tagged with the owner's name, driver's license or ID number and a note saying the marijuana being grown is for personal use.

Adults age 21 and up can legally give up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 or older.

BUT, you cannot receive money, gifts, etc., in exchange for the marijuana. AND, you can't give or receive marijuana as a gift with another purchase.

We're heading into new territory, but what isn't new is our belief that most people — the vast majority of people, in fact — want to do the right thing.

In a post on his Facebook page, Colonel Katz called the legislation “widely misunderstood.”

“Do you know anything about the legalization of marijuana?” CBS 6 reporter Laura French asked Richmond resident Kenneth Ingham.

“Something that has to do with plants?”

“How many plants are you allowed to grow?” French asked Richmond resident Casper Oag-Amte.

“I think less than less than a zip, like, less than two ounces?” Oag-Amte responded. “Four plants,” answered French. “Four plants?” asked Oag-Amte.

“After tomorrow I'll probably be more informed about it because I would hear more about it,” Richmond resident Jackson Booth said.

Chesterfield Police said it was important to stay informed because ignorance of the law is not a defense.

“The devil is in the details, you know, people need to read the law, they need to understand what they're allowed to and not allowed to do,” Colonel Katz said. “You know, basically, at least as far as Virginia law is concerned, because recognize it's still a schedule one drug under the federal guidelines and so marijuana is still technically illegal in Virginia. Just Virginia law conflicts with federal law.”

“How have you prepared your officers for this?” French asked Katz.

“We've done our best to help make sure that they're briefed on the law and the nuances of that law, and we've done our best to try to communicate to the community as well, that we will hold people to account for violating the law, we're obviously going to follow it as it's been passed,” Katz said. “But it's very faulty and it is not, it's not clear. So, you know, a law that's intended as a measure of enhancing social justice doesn't provide any additional justice for those who misinterpret or misunderstand it and put themselves in a position where their health and safety is compromised.”

Katz said they will continue to educate the community and they are not seeking out violators but if you are out in public violating the law expect to face the consequences.

“If you take marijuana to a public park during a kid's soccer game and decide you want to smoke it, you're probably going to get charged,” Katz said. “You know, I think the tolerance of the community would dictate that they would expect their police department to enforce that law. You know, you go on a school grounds and you start smoking pot on the school playground, you're gonna get arrested for that, you know. That I don't think that's even the legislative intent. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding the legislative intent because the law is so nuanced.”