CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- In a locked bedroom upstairs, Josiah Ickes unzipped a professional plant grow tent to reveal one of the first legally grown marijuana plants in Virginia. It was planted July 1, the day Virginia legalized marijuana for private, personal use and possession.
“He’s super proud, he can’t wait to cut them down and start curing them,” Ickes said of his friend’s plant.
The reason Ickes is showing the cannabis plant off and not his friend, he said, is many home growers are hesitant about going public.
“I think the rules are straightforward, but they’re so straightforward that people don’t trust them,” Ickes said. “This is a plant that’s been so illegal, for so long, and now you guys are like, ‘ah, no big deal.’ I think that’s hard for people to wrap their head around.”
Under Virginia’s marijuana legalization law, home cultivation of up to four plants is permitted, if the plants are labeled, out of public view and away from children.
However, the selling of marijuana seeds will still be illegal, as will transporting them across state lines.
Virginians 21-years or older will be allowed to gift less than an ounce of marijuana to another person in private. The advocacy group Virginia NORML has a FAQ for those seeking clarification on the new laws.
Ickes is the co-owner of the hydroponics and home agricultural supply store Happy Trees in Scotts Addition. He said his goal for customers is to help dispel the fears they have about running afoul of the new rules.
“People call in all the time about seeds still. I would say the best way to find them is to reach out to the community, reach out to people you know.”
Jenn Michelle Pedini, development director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and executive director of Virginia NORML, said their phone rings off the hook with questions. They refer people to their FAQ and try to explain the complex language simply.
“While Virginians really are excited about this new change in the law, there’s definitely frustration they don’t have access to legal sales yet,” Pedini said. “Adults 21 and older can share, in private, with each other up to one ounce of marijuana. Much like those adults could share a glass of wine or a beer, they can also share cannabis, as long as there is no remuneration.”
The Richmond-Times Dispatch reports arrests for marijuana offenses plummeted this year compared to the same time frame in 2020. Pedini said those numbers square with what happened in other states that previously legalized cannabis.
“This is exactly what we expect to happen. Legalization has historically reduced arrests by about 90%, and that appears to be what this data indicates has happened here in Virginia,” Pedini said.
While recreational cannabis use gets most of the attention, Pedini and Ickes mention Virginia’s medical marijuana market has been active. Ickes said many of his customers come in seeking information for pain relief or other factors.
“I’ve heard people say they’re using it for arthritis and joint pain. Some people with PTSD,” Ickes said. “Everybody has their own version of what they use it for because it’s a very powerful plant, has a lot of utilization.”
Beyond making sure their growth is successful by providing the correct lighting and atmosphere, Ickes said it is important for home growers to go about the process the right way and in a secure location.
“You do have a huge responsibility to the community, to everybody around you, because some of your neighbors don’t want to smell it,” he said. “Let’s show that this is a good decision, and this is going to help a lot more people than it’s going to hurt.”