The New Marijuana Laws in Virginia
As of July 1 2021, the possession and personal use of marijuana for adults in Virginia have been legalized. If you are over 21, you can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which can be shared with friends. Although one can possess marijuana in public, marijuana cannot be consumed in public.
In addition, adults can grow up to four plants per household for personal use. However, if you are under the age of 21, you are not allowed to possess any marijuana. If you are found in possession, you will be fined $25 and required to complete a substance abuse and education program.
The laws relating to the sale of marijuana remain unchanged, and it is still a criminal offense to sell marijuana or to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
Marijuana and the Driving Laws
Although marijuana usage is legal, like alcohol, there are still laws regarding driving under the influence. Just as it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, it is also illegal to be under the influence of marijuana while driving to a degree that impairs your ability to drive the vehicle.
If you are convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana, you could face up to one year in jail (although an active jail sentence is unlikely for a first offense), a fine up to $2500, and a one-year license suspension.
Police Traffic Stops
As of March 1, 2021, the police can no longer stop or search your vehicle based solely on the odor of marijuana. However, in relation to driving under the influence of marijuana, the police can use the odor of marijuana as evidence of impairment. If you are stopped while under the influence, there are several things you should remember…
Right to Silence
Firstly, stop talking. You have the right to silence; use it. The less that you say, the better. When stopped, you must give the police officer your name. You must also produce your license, registration, and proof of insurance if asked; however, you do not have to answer any other questions. The more you say, the greater the likelihood you will give the police officer information that can be used to establish impairment.
Sobriety & Breath Tests
When you are pulled over at a traffic stop, the police may ask you to complete a field sobriety test. This may involve a one-leg stand test, a horizontal gaze test, or a walk and turn test. These tests are not mandatory. You have the right to refuse, and you should.
The officer may also ask you to undergo a preliminary breath test. This test is not mandatory. You have the right to refuse, and you should.
By completing these tests, you may give the police officer evidence and information to find that you were under the influence to the degree that you were impaired.
If you are pulled over, the police officer may ask if they can look around your vehicle. You do not have to agree, in fact, there are only a couple of reasons where the police can search your car without consent.
- They have a warrant.
- You are being arrested or detained for something else.
- They see something illegal in the vehicle, which gives them probable cause.
In all other instances, you have the right to withhold consent. Often the police do not tell you this, so if you are in this position, it is important your refusal is communicated to the police.
Arrested for Driving Under Influence of Marijuana
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, you can be required to undergo a blood test to establish the presence of THC in your system. The results can be complicated to interpret because marijuana metabolites can remain in a person’s system for several weeks after they have consumed the drug. The police must prove that it was active at the time you were driving. This means the police will use what you said and the results of any field sobriety test to establish this.