Possession of Marijuana
Possession of marijuana in Virginia is punished with a fine up to $25. Additionally, a conviction for a possession of marijuana charge in Virginia could have immigration consequences for anyone who is not a United States citizen.
Virginia Code §18.2-250.1 makes it illegal for any person to “knowingly or intentionally” possess marijuana. There is an exception to this offense for possession of marijuana pursuant to a valid prescription issued by a medical doctor in the course of his professional practice for treatment of glaucoma or cancer (Va. Code §18.2-251.1(A)).
Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is considered simple possession, or possession for one’s own personal use. Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is usually charged as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. (For more information on possession with intent to distribute marijuana charges in Virginia, click here.)
Proof of Possession of Marijuana in Virginia
In order to convict an offender of possession of marijuana in Virginia, the Commonwealth must prove possession and that the substance was marijuana.
Knowing and Intentional Possession
The Commonwealth needs to prove that the offender “knowingly and intentionally” possessed marijuana. Knowledge refers to the offender’s knowledge of the fact that what he was possessing was illegal. It also refers to knowing that the marijuana was present. Intentional refers to asserting dominion and control over the substance. Knowing and intentional possession of marijuana in Virginia means the offender knew the illegal character of the substance, knew where it was, and asserted dominion and control over it.
Actual or Constructive Possession
Possession of marijuana in Virginia can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means that the marijuana was found on the defendant’s person (in his hand, pocket, etc.) Constructive possession means that the marijuana was found in close proximity to the offender. Proximity by itself is not enough for a conviction unless the Commonwealth can prove that the offender knew what and where the substance was and exercised dominion and control over it. This can be proven with circumstantial evidence or by the offender’s statements to the police.
It is also possible for more than one person to be convicted of possession of the same marijuana. The Commonwealth must prove that both offenders knowingly and intentionally possessed marijuana. If both people knew what the substance was, knew where it was located, and asserted dominion and control over it, the Commonwealth can prove joint possession and convict multiple offenders of possession of marijuana in Virginia.
Proof that the Substance was Marijuana
The Commonwealth must also prove that the substance found was, in fact, marijuana. This is usually done by tests conducted in the field and more extensive testing in a lab. For the purposes of possession of marijuana under Va. Code §18.2-250.1, marijuana is defined in Va. Code §18.2-247(D). The statute states: “The term ‘marijuana’ when used in this article means any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not, its seeds or resin; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or its resin.”
The amount of marijuana is irrelevant in a possession of marijuana prosecution in Virginia. Any marijuana at all, even the smallest amount, is enough to convict an offender of possession of marijuana in Virginia.
Penalties for Possession of Marijuana in Virginia
Possession of marijuana in Virginia is punished with civil penalty of a fine up to $25.
Possession of marijuana by a prisoner in Virginia is a Class 5 felony under Va. Code §53.1-203.6. It is punished with up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $2,500.
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US (VA): Farmer gives away 100.000 seeds throughout Virginia
As you may know, the Virginia General Assembly decriminalized adult possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2020. This year they followed up by legalizing adult possession of up to an ounce, and home grows of up to four plants.
The legislature this year also began a process of legalizing adult-use cannabis sales to adults, beginning in 2024, but legislation establishing the regulatory components for retail cannabis sales has not been enacted. That was supposed to happen next year, with the 2024 target in mind, but with Republicans now appearing to be in control in the House of Delegates, it is not clear it will happen at all.
Some people will not wait to see how the dust settles on that question. They have higher aspirations, one might say. A good example is Jonathan Zinski of Campbell County, a hemp consultant, farmer, and father of two who caused great excitement early in July by staging a wildly successful statewide cannabis seed giveaway, on the day Virginia formally legalized cannabis.
Since then, Zinski has been planning an even bigger seed giveaway, which will happen on November 13. He said he is going to give away more than 100,000 cannabis seeds at 11 locations in 10 different Virginia localities. All the seeds have been donated, mostly by out-of-state pot seed distributors.