Last Thursday, July 18, 2019, Mark Herring, Virginia’s Attorney General, called again for marijuana regulatory reform in light of new data showing arrests rose in the Commonwealth last year. The Attorney General noted that in 2018 marijuana arrests accounted for 59 percent of all drug arrests in Virginia. Herring favors the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions for simple possession and a move towards legal and regulated adult use in Virginia. The Attorney General’s press release was followed the next day by a tweet from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also urging the decriminalization of marijuana.
Currently, recreational cannabis use is illegal under both federal and Virginia law. Virginia law now permits the prescribing, production and sale of marijuana for medical purposes, but such activities are still technically illegal under federal law and the FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. In fact, under U.S. federal law, the use, possession, sale, cultivation and transportation of cannabis remains illegal, and cannabis continues to be listed as a Schedule I substance under the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended.
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, however, the cultivation, processing and sale of hemp with not more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) is now legal under federal law and Virginia law, although hemp cultivation in Virginia must be performed pursuant to regulations issued by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and these regulations are still in flux.
The Attorney General’s press release can be found at: https://www.oag.state.va.us/media-center/news-releases/1493-july-18-2019-herring-reiterates-call-for-marijuana-reform-as-arrests-continue-to-rise.
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Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable federal and state law. Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.