Are you thinking of getting a medical marijuana card in Virginia? The state continues to expand its medical marijuana program, giving patients more opportunities to apply for a card of their own. Read on to learn more about cannabis in Virginia.
On 1 July 2021, Virginia became the first state in the conservative South to legalize adult-use (recreational) marijuana and the 17th in the entire U.S. to do so, thereby making it possible for adults 21+ to possess and share, but not sell, up to one ounce of recreational cannabis and to grow up to four marijuana plants of home-cultivated marijuana. Unfortunately, state-licensed dispensaries for recreational cannabis sales, which were originally slated to open in January 2024 after having been passed by the state’s Senate, are currently on indefinite hold due to being overturned by 5-3 in the House General Laws subcommittee. It is hoped that Virginian voters will be able to select the right kinds of politicians in 2023 who will be able to get the job done, as the legislature has convened for the year. Until that happens, recreational users do not currently have access to regulated weed as there are no operational dispensaries at this time for them to buy their cannabis products.
However, two positives are that recreational users can easily obtain feminized cannabis seeds from reputable online seed banks to cultivate their own home-grown marijuana, and qualified medical patients can not only buy quality medical marijuana seeds online (and apply for a medical marijuana card) but can obtain medical cannabis products from medical marijuana dispensaries in Virginia.
The road to recreational marijuana becoming legalized was paved by the passing of numerous medical marijuana laws over the past several years–even decades.
Conversely, recent improvements to medical marijuana laws that went into effect on 1 July 2022 with the passing of House Bill 933, where medical marijuana patients, their parents, and/or legal guardians no longer have to have to register with Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy to obtain a physical medical cannabis card is connected in part to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Virginia. As such, these days, all a person has to do to become a qualified patient in Virginia is to obtain a Written Certification for the Use of Medical Cannabis from a registered practitioner for medical cannabis.
However, before getting into what Virginia now views as a qualifying condition, what medical users are legally permitted, and what the steps are for the certification process, it would be good to first share a brief timeline of Virginia’s medical cannabis program.
History of Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Program
In 1979, Virginia became one of the first countries in the nation to pass medical marijuana legislation–albeit limited–allowing state-licensed doctors to prescribe CBD and THC-A oil to patients with the diagnosed condition of glaucoma and those suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy. However, due to the fact that marijuana was still listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, this law was basically rendered moot as such prescriptions were illegal on the federal level.
In March of 2017, then-Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 1235, which gave patients legal access to CBD and THC-A oil.
This turned out to be a watershed moment, as then less than a year later in 2018, the law was expanded so that those suffering any diagnosed medical condition or disease could legally procure CBD or THC-A oil.
In 2019, additional legislation was passed that allowed for medical marijuana products, like edibles, to contain up to 10 mg THC per dosage. That said, progress can take time, and so it wasn’t until August 2020 that the first state-licensed marijuana dispensaries for medical cannabis opened their doors to registered patients.
Following all of these advancements, House Bill 2218 / Senate Bill 1333 was signed by then-Governor Northam in March 2021, which allowed patients to use whole-plant botanical cannabis, which effectively gave medical users access to cannabis flower starting in July 2021. Another bill was also passed in 2021 that provided patients protection from employers for using medical cannabis outside of the workplace.
Then, as previously mentioned, effective 1 July 2022, medical cannabis registration cards became optional, which means that qualifying patients who are 18+, and the parents or legal guardians of patients who are minors no longer need to go through the registration process with the Board of Pharmacy nor pay the registration fees. However, other caregivers, who are known as “registered agents,” do still have to register and pay the application fee, but for relatively nominal costs–the details of which I will cover near the end of this piece.
Now, let’s look at what Virginia considers to be a qualifying medical condition and its current medical marijuana laws in regard to possession and cultivation, etc.
The majority of states where medical marijuana is legal require individuals to have specific conditions in order to become a qualified medical cannabis patient. Virginia, however, instead decided that a licensed physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner who is registered with the state’s program need simply to determine that they believe that their patient is suffering from a condition that will positively benefit from the use of medical marijuana.
Some of the most common conditions are listed below. However, remember that these are just some of the physical and psychological conditions as Virginia has removed its limitations and restrictions on exactly what qualifies–trusting board-registered medical marijuana doctors and healthcare providers to determine this based on their extensive medical training and knowledge.
– Chronic pain
– Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
– Multiple sclerosis (MS)
– Muscle spasms
– Sickle cell anemia
– Tourette’s syndrome
Current Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Virginia
Virginia’s now-expansive medical cannabis laws allow the following for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers, provided they have obtained medical marijuana certification.
– The age requirement to become a qualified medical cannabis user is 18, or if you are a minor then you must have a designated caregiver who is your parent or legal guardian. If this description matches your role, then you do not need to go through the Board of Pharmacy’s application process.
– Other registered agents, i.e. those caring for someone who is housebound due to their illness, do need to do a registration application with the board and will need to pay a $25 application fee. The annual renewal fee is also $25. To register for the first time go here.
– Patients may possess up to 4 ounces of whole-plant cannabis or cannabis flower every 30 days.
– Patients can have a 90-day supply of medical cannabis products, which include edibles and topicals as well as inhalation products. These products can contain a maximum THC content of 10 mg per dose.
– Medical (and recreational) users who are 21+ are permitted to grow up to four plants per household.
– Virginia does have employee protections in place for medical marijuana users, but remember that these protections do not apply to federal employees in the state.
– Medical cannabis patients in Virginia pay just 5.3% sales tax on their cannabis purchase, whereas recreational sales will carry a 21% excise tax, and local governments can charge a retail tax of 26% to 29%.
How to Obtain Your Medical Marijuana Certificate
Now that medical patients are no longer required to obtain a physical medical card, it is incredibly easy for individuals to get their medical cannabis certification, which is valid for 12 months.
Meet with a registered medical practitioner in person or via an online consultation. It is important that you only go through a state-certified practitioner, which is also quite easy to do as the state has provided a list of licensed healthcare providers here. The fee usually runs upwards of $100.
Once you receive your medical marijuana recommendation you can take it with you to medical cannabis dispensary along with your state-issued proof of identity, and start to purchase your medical marijuana products.
While you no longer have to obtain a medical cannabis card, some choose to pay the $50 and receive it in the mail because having a physical card does make it easier to purchase medical cannabis in other states where it is legal. You should receive a response in approximately 10 business days, and it can take up to 60 business days for your application form to be processed.
For information on the requirements for being a registered agent, see Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources website here.
Just kidding! There is no Step 3 because it only takes the two steps listed above to get your medical cannabis certificate in Virginia!
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