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What's going to happen when marijuana is legal in 2 weeks?

Posted at 7:50 AM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 07:55:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In about two weeks, a new law will allow the legal use of marijuana in Virginia.

Starting July 1, it will be legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and use it the privacy of their home, but not in public spaces.

You will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants in your home, keeping them away from children.

Under the new law, anyone who has more than an ounce, but less than a pound, could face a $25 charge.

Advocates for marijuana said while it's a step forward, they're concerned about the risks of people of color being targeted.

A study by JLAC found that Black and Brown Virginians were three times more likely to face a penalty or be arrested for marijuana possession, even though use was similar among all racial and ethnic groups.

The disparity rate remained the same, even after the Commonwealth decriminalized possession of small amounts in July 2020.

"Understand that marijuana is not truly legalized, but there is a new enforcement model that has come to Virginia, and that we have to arm Black and Brown people with this information to truly feel the relief that's supposed to come with this repeal of the possession and the simple possession," Chelsea Higgs Wise, with Marijuana Justice, said.

Under this new law, any prior arrests, charges or convictions for having or selling marijuana, will be removed from public view, However, Wise argued that the records will still be seen by prosecutors.

"So we're really interested in 2022, where the tax revenues will truly go and talk about how we can maybe even bring direct payments to people that have been disproportionately harmed in their lives really ruined by these enforcement laws," Wise said.

Meanwhile, Dana Schard with Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police believes the biggest challenges with the new law will be figuring out how to prevent impaired driving.

"The last thing we want is people driving impaired, whether it's alcohol, marijuana or some other drugs, so being able to set up policies and procedures for how to address a marijuana-impaired driving situation is something that we are still working through," Schard said. "We don't have a lot of time to get there."

"We're going to see where there are situations that the public doesn't understand the law, or we may need to make some tweaks in the law to clarify the standards of use and possession," Schard added. "So it seems to be I think, a law that will be a work in progress for a few years."

As far as buying marijuana in Virginia, it'll take some time for the market to get up and running. Retail sales aren't set to begin until January 2024.

The full legislation can be read here.