Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads
Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads

Justice Department Backs DEA's Move to Reclassify Marijuana

Close-up view of dried cannabis flower bud with police handcuff.

Understand the DEA's proposal and Virginia marijuana laws to avoid penalties

In a huge policy shift, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

The proposal must still be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget and go through the public comment process, but if approved, the federal government would officially recognize the medical benefits of cannabis use and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than many other narcotics. While this is a major change in America's approach to marijuana, the proposal would not outright legalize marijuana use throughout the country. The effect such a proposal will have on people's lives isn't clear.

Remember: Regardless of how marijuana is scheduled now or in the future, the large-scale cultivation and possession, distribution, unlicensed sales, and trafficking of marijuana will remain illegal. Even if marijuana is moved to a lower schedule, there will still be harsh penalties for cannabis practices that step outside the boundaries of state and federal law.

Understanding the DEA's proposal and Virginia marijuana laws can help people avoid misunderstandings and errors that could get them into a legal situation requiring the help of an experienced marijuana defense attorney.

What's going on with the DEA and marijuana?

Currently, the U.S. government considers marijuana to be just as dangerous as other "Schedule I" drugs like heroin and LSD. The DEA's proposal would "reschedule" marijuana as a Schedule III substance, on par with drugs like ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

Although it appears to have support, the proposal still has a long way to go if marijuana is to be reclassified at a lower schedule. After an OMB review, the DEA will have time to receive public comments on the plan and possibly amend the proposal. If the proposal is not amended, upon close of the public comment period, it will be sent to an administrative judge for review. If the judge approves it, the DEA may eventually publish the final rule rescheduling marijuana.

The push to reschedule marijuana is part of an ongoing effort by the Biden administration to walk back the government's hardline on marijuana. In 2022, he called for a review of federal marijuana law and moved to pardon thousands of Americans convicted federally for possession of the drug.

Virginia marijuana law

Virginia legalized medical marijuana in 2020 and adult recreational marijuana in 2021. Virginia's marijuana law allows people age 21 and older to grow marijuana themselves (4 plants per adult) and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, also known as cannabis, for recreational use. While there are about 20 medical marijuana dispensaries located throughout the state, Gov. Youngkin recently vetoed a proposal to allow recreational dispensary sales.

The state has limits on legal marijuana. Step outside them, and you could be fined or sentenced to prison. For example:

  • Possession of under 1 ounce of marijuana in public - No fine.
  • Possession of 1 to 4 ounces in public – $25 fine.
  • Possession of 4 ounces to 1 pound in public, first offense – $500 fine.
  • Possession of 4 ounces to 1 pound in public, second or subsequent offenses – Up to 6 months in prison, $1,000 fine.
  • Possession of more than 1 pound in public – 1 to 10 years in prison, $ 250,000 fine.

We will fight for your rights and freedom

In Virginia, marijuana laws are a puzzle, constantly changing and leaving people unsure of what's legal. That's why you need a Virginia criminal defense attorney who knows the law inside and out and will fight tirelessly to defend your rights.

At Welch & Wright, PLLC, our Norfolk, VA marijuana defense lawyers are well-versed in Virginia's legal landscape. With extensive courtroom experience, we're ready to tackle your case head-on. If you have been charged or expect to be charged with a marijuana-related crime, don't leave your future to chance. Take action. Contact us now for a free case evaluation. Welch & Wright, PLLC is based in Norfolk and serves clients throughout Hampton Roads.

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