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New laws in Virginia to go into effect January 1, 2024

New Laws in Virginia 2024

Changes to Virginia marijuana laws to come into effect in the new year

The Virginia General Assembly, while in session, creates bills and those bills are sometimes signed by the Governor and adopted as new laws. This includes new Virginia criminal laws and criminal procedures. Typically, these new laws are scheduled to go into effect on July 1 of every year. There are, however, other times of the year when new laws can go into effect. 

January 1, 2024, is one such time. So, what’s changing as new laws in Virginia go into effect on New Year’s Day?

It’s important to remember that the Code of Virginia covers a lot more than just criminal law. Included in the Code are rules pertaining to marriage, commerce, taxes, and a host of other topics. It’s these other areas of the law where most of the changes this January 1 are found. These include changes to health insurance rules, adoption, etc. and are outside of this firm’s current practice areas.

For the biggest item related to criminal law, we actually have to go back to 2021. It was during 2021 that Virginia enacted the Cannabis Control Act (CCA). That ambitious Act presented January 1, 2024, as the potential effective date for retail sales of marijuana in Virginia. Has it worked? Not exactly.

The CCA originally indicated that the Board of Pharmacy would regulate marijuana in Virginia. In 2023, HB (House Bill) 1598 and SB (Senate Bill) 788 designated the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority as the new government body responsible for regulating marijuana in Virginia. 

Although January 1, 2024, affects this change, it’s still largely a distinction without a difference. Anyone residing in Virginia can clearly see that retail establishments for marijuana sales are still not here (at least, not in compliance with the law!). If that’s the case, where do things currently stand?

The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (interestingly, also abbreviated as the CCA) have indicated in a recent news post on their website that “[t]he CCA is working with the Board of Pharmacy, the current medical cannabis regulator, and the program’s stakeholders to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible.” So far, most of their focus is still on serving medical marijuana patients in Virginia. Particularly in underserved areas such as the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

As the CCA itself acknowledges on its website, “[t]he General Assembly did not reenact the legislative framework for creating an adult-use retail market. It is possible the General Assembly may address this issue in future sessions.” So, essentially, we are all waiting on the Virginia General Assembly to develop a legal structure for retail sales of marijuana in Virginia. How long that will take, we cannot say. Democrats had a strong showing in the most recent elections, which may open the door for more movement on this issue.

If retail sales are not currently legal, what is the current state of the law in regards to possession of marijuana in Virginia? For more information on this question, please consult with my post A Guide to Virginia Marijuana Laws in 2024.

Are more changes to Virginia’s laws coming? Absolutely. The Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to convene on January 10, 2024, at which time more information will begin to be released regarding potential bills arriving later in 2024. As mentioned earlier, a strong showing at the polls by a political party can lead to easier implementations of new bills, as there is expected to be less of a political deadlock regarding these proposed laws. 

Regardless of your personal opinion about Virginia’s political parties, the results of recent elections seem to indicate that there will be potential for significant changes to Virginia’s laws this year. If you would like to stay up-to-date on any proposed bills, daily updates can be found at  Virginia’s Legislative Information System. Bills and Resolutions can be searched by date, allowing for easy review of the General Assembly’s activity while it is in session.

It goes without saying that changes to the criminal law and criminal procedure in Virginia can have significant effects on my clients. It is my responsibility to stay up-to-date on the state of the law so that I have the best ability to fight for your rights if you are ever accused of a crime. Any significant changes to Virginia’s laws in the future will be covered by me in further posts. In the meantime, have a safe and happy New Year!


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