Virginia’s new cannabis possession and home grow laws have led to a jaw-dropping decrease in cannabis-related arrests in the county of Richmond. The new law, which went into effect on July 1st, 2020, allows home cultivation of up to four plants (with more provisions) and possession of up to one ounce of flower.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, throughout the first seven weeks of the law going into effect (July 1st through August 20th), there were a mere 20 cannabis-related arrests in the county. During that same period of last year (2020), there were 257 arrests. In other words, this year’s cannabis-related arrest rate was 90 percent lower than last year’s.
“A 90 percent reduction in marijuana arrests indicates that the public policy is performing as intended and in a manner that is consistent with post-legalization observations from other states,” said the development director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and executive director of the Virginia NORML chapter, Jenn Michelle Pedini. That rate of decline is no doubt quite incredible to see, although just because legalization is in the works, it doesn’t mean everything residents may think.
Prior to the law’s enactment, Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz released a statement on Facebook that impressed the finer details of the legislature upon the state’s residents.
“Virginia, we have a problem. A lot of folks believe that as of July 1, 2021, the possession and use of marijuana is legal within the Commonwealth. In reality, it’s not that simple,” said Katz. “We feel an obligation to those we serve to provide a little context into some of the more granular nuances of this widely misunderstood legislation… but even this brief animated summary doesn’t replace an in-depth review of the law as passed. The devil is in the details, as they say… and like all laws passed by our legislature, it is our charge to encourage compliance and enforce violations. Ignorance of the law isn’t a defense, so we encourage everyone to be both informed and safe.”
It seems that for the most part, cannabis-loving Virginians are doing a great job following the new regulations. However, there were those 20 cannabis-related arrests, and it seems that those individuals were very much not following the rules. 17 of those were underage possession arrests, with seven between the ages of 16 and 18 and ten between the ages of 18 and 20 years. While those aged 21 and older are allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis per the new legislation, it remains illegal to consume it in public – AKA you can’t break out the rolling papers and spark up in the park. One person from Chesterfield was caught growing approximately 50 cannabis plants that were not properly tagged per the new regulations.
Interestingly, however, there are still no sales fronts at which people can purchase cannabis; those aren’t expected to roll out until 2024. As of now, consumers are getting their supply from either home growing or the illegal market.