Marijuana will be legal in Virginia after historic vote

Virginia, which for decades has sent thousands of people to jail for selling or using marijuana, is about to make it legal.

In a historic shift for this traditionally conservative Southern state, the General Assembly voted Friday to allow its possession, manufacture and sale.

But while lawmakers in the House of Delegates and Senate agree on legalizing the substance, the chambers will have to work out differences in their proposed bills before a final version reaches Gov. Ralph Northam, who has signaled he will sign their legislation into law. Beginning in 2024, cannabis can be sold in regulated stores, with tax revenue going to pre-K and public health programs, addiction treatment and a fund to remedy the effects of the drug’s criminalization.

“There are more deaths from legal pharmaceuticals … sold at your local CVS and Walgreens that cause way more deaths than anything that marijuana — cannabis — will do,” said Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, stressing that the prosecution of marijuana use disproportionately harms Black and brown Virginians.

Under the Senate bill, passed Friday afternoon, simple possession would be legal starting in July, but retail sales would not start until 2024. The House of Delegates passed a similar bill earlier in the day.

This is the second year Democrats are in control of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. They have faced mounting calls from activists to reform the state’s criminal justice system and to address racial and ethnic inequities exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday’s votes fell largely down party lines.

Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, criticized a portion of the Senate bill for “provid(ing) preferential treatment to one group or class of citizen.”

“That’s referred to as discrimination,” DeSteph said. “What we’re trying to do here is perpetuate the same thing we’re trying to stop.”

The state had already decriminalized marijuana last year. Being caught with up to an ounce of marijuana will land you a $25 civil fine, akin to a parking ticket. Before that, it could have resulted in a criminal conviction, a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for a first offense — and up to a year in jail for a second or subsequent offense.

“It was a good first step, but more is needed,” Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said about last year’s change before Friday’s votes to legalize. “The (Senate) bill is the next step.”

From 2010 to 2018, there were almost 200,000 marijuana possession arrests in Virginia, and nearly 39,000 of those were in Hampton Roads, according to Old Dominion University’s 2019 State of the Region report.

About 68% of Virginia’s registered voters support legalizing marijuana, according to poll results released Tuesday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University.

Final Rule on Hemp Production

  1. The Final Rule still insists that only DEA-certified laboratories test material, but it delays enforcement of this provision until 12/31/22.

  2. The negligence standard has been increased from 0.5% THC to 1.0% THC, a helpful development to protect farmers’ economic interests.

  3. The sampling window has been extended from 15 to 30 days of anticipated harvest, a welcome relief to help avoid bottlenecking in testing procedures.
  4. The Final Rule continues to require pre-harvest samples to be taken from the flower material – not the whole plant as many requested — but it provides some relief by requiring the samples to be taken from 5 to 8 inches from the main stem, terminal bud, or central cola of the flowering top.

  5. The USDA retains its requirement for testing total THC, instead of limiting the testing to delta-9 THC as requested by some in the industry.

  6. The more flexible disposal options that the USDA proposed last year – including on-farm or at-production disposal flexibility – have been made permanent.

Anxiety, Stress, and CBD

During these trying times and as we take steps to move forward in our new normal, we know that it’s more important than ever to manage our stress and anxiety, to get quality sleep, and find meaningful ways to create a sense of calm. 

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from the hemp plant. CBD products do not get you high. CBD interacts in our body through our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Researchers know that this system plays a role in major bodily functions like mood, sleep, memory, appetite and digestion.

The ECS has 3 parts: receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids, all of which exist and function whether an individual consumes CBD or not. Taking CBD is like adding a catalyst to the system, it helps the process function more effectively. 

So what does all this mean? When someone takes CBD, it enters the body and is absorbed by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Those enzymes metabolize the CBD and then the broken-down CBD activates the receptors. The activated receptors produce symptom relief. 

While more research still needs to be conducted about the mechanisms behind CBD’s anxiolytic effect, we do know it has a lot to do with our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is found in the brain.  CBD stimulates our serotonin receptors and helps to retain serotonin levels to regulate our mood. 

Another great benefit many CBD users report is better quality of sleep. According to Harvard Medical School, more than 50 percent of adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder struggle to get quality sleep. Since our endocannabinoid system regulates things like sleep and mood, adding additional cannabinoids into our body can aid in a better night’s sleep and decreased anxiety. 

Virginia’s First Large-Scale Industrial CBD Processing Opening

RICHMOND—A company will invest more than $3 million to establish Virginia’s first large-scale facility to process hemp and to extract CBD oil, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced.

The project will create 22 new jobs and that the company has committed to buying 90 percent of its hemp from growers in Virginia, the governor’s office said in a statement Thursday.

Company BRD Extraction, LLC will do business under the name Blue Ribbon Extraction. It will be located in the Town of South Boston in Halifax County, which is outside of Danville and near the North Carolina border.

The Democratic governor said the company will spend $70 million on payments to Virginia farmers over the next three years. Many of them are current or former tobacco farmers.

The company’s founders and primary investors are Richmond residents Rick Gregory and Sterling Edmunds. They are both natives of Halifax County .

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-intoxicating molecule found in hemp and marijuana. Both are cannabis plants, but only marijuana has enough of the compound THC to get users high. The vast majority of CBD products come from hemp, which has less than 0.3% THC.

CBD has garnered a devoted following among people who swear by it for everything from stress reduction to better sleep.

Hemp in Virginia

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) legalized hemp by removing the crop and its derivatives from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and by providing a detailed framework for the cultivation of hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill gives the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory authority over hemp cultivation at the federal level. In turn, states have the option to maintain primary regulatory authority over the crop cultivated within their borders by submitting a plan to the USDA.

This federal and state interplay has resulted in many legislative and regulatory changes at the state level. Indeed, most states have introduced (and adopted) bills that would authorize the commercial production of hemp within their borders. A smaller but growing number of states also regulate the sale of products derived from hemp. Our attorneys track these developments in real-time on behalf of multiple clients, and we provide those clients with a 50-state matrix showing how states regulate hemp and hemp products.

In light of the rapidly evolving legislative changes, we are also presenting a 50-state series analyzing how each jurisdiction treats hemp-derived cannabidiol (Hemp CBD). Today we turn to Virginia.

Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) submitted its plan to regulate hemp production to the USDA for review and approval. Shortly thereafter, the USDA requested that VDACS revise and resubmit its plan, which is now under second review. According to the VDACS hemp webpage, the state agency expects its plan will go into effect on October 31, 2020. This means that until then, the VDACS will continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill.

Virginia’s hemp rules mandate that hemp growers, handlers and processors wishing to engage in the production of hemp secure a registration from the VDACS.

Virginia is also one of the states that expressly regulate the production of hemp products intended for human consumption.

Under Virginia law, “hemp product” means

any finished product that contains industrial hemp, including rope, building materials, automobile parts, animal bedding, animal feed, cosmetics, oil containing an industrial hemp extract, or food or food additives for human consumption.”

On July 15, 2019, the VDACS Commissioner announced it would treat hemp-derived extracts intended for human consumption, such as a Hemp CBD oil, as approved food additives. Yet, neither Virginia law nor the VDACS rules overtly addressed the sale and marketing of these products. Then, in April, the governor signed into law SB 918, which helped clarify this issue. The new law, which went into effect upon its passage, provides that hemp extract that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC shall be treated as a food. A food is defined as:

any article that is intended for human consumption and introduction into commerce, whether the article is simple, mixed, or compound, and all substances or ingredients used in the preparation thereof. ‘Food’ does not mean drug as defined in § 54.1-3401.” (Emphasis added)

Therefore, the sale of these products is now expressly allowed, provided they meet “specific laws, regulations, or criteria that pertain to the manufacturer of industrial hemp extracts or food containing an industrial hemp extract in the location in which such manufacturing occurs.” It is unclear whether this law applies to both in-state and out-of-state hemp extracts or food, but this issue will likely be clarified by the VDACS, which is tasked with adopting labeling and testing requirements for these products.

Although the manufacture of cosmetics infused with Hemp CBD is allowed, their sale is not expressly addressed under Virginia law. This is likely due to the fact that the VDACS does not have jurisdiction over this category of products. Nevertheless, because cosmetics can be lawfully manufactured in the state, it seems reasonable to infer that the sale of these products is allowed so long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent THC and are safe for human consumption.

On March 23, the governor signed into law HB 962, which clarifies that the sale of Hemp CBD smokable products is lawful, provided certain packaging requirements are met and the products are not sold to any person under 21 years of age. This new law will go into effect on July 1.

Can CBD Help With Covid-19?

With the worldwide death toll from the coronavirus rising exponentially, The Lancet drew attention to “accumulating evidence” that indicates “patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome.”

Characterized by intense immune overreaction in the lungs, this little understood syndrome can sicken and kill infected individuals. Respiratory distress is the leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 cases. The critically ill who survive intensive care may suffer long term lung damage, resulting in functional impairment and reduced quality of life.

Science Daily reports that a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm, involving a surge of immune cells gone haywire, was likely the primary cause of death in several viral outbreaks, including the 1918-20 “Spanish flu” pandemic (which killed more than 50 million people) and, more recently, the H1N1 swine flu and the so-called bird flu.

In cases of acute, viral-induced pulmonary distress, cytokine-storm-targeted therapy would seem to make sense. But treatment with corticosteroids is not a great option because it can exacerbate COVID-19-associated lung injury. “However,” as The Lancet emphasizes, “in hyperinflammation, immunosuppression is likely to be beneficial.”

Several laboratory studies indicate that cannabinoid compounds – in particular, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – are immunosuppressant. This would explain why medical cannabis is beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.

Which begs the question: Could cannabis calm a cytokine storm? 

The short answer is we don’t know. There’s a lot that we still don’t understand about cannabis and the immune system.

For many years, scientific inquiry in the United States has been handcuffed by cannabis prohibition, and the federal government continues to thwart research that could shed light on the therapeutic use of cannabis and whole plant CBD-rich oil extracts. The federal stranglehold on cannabis research is the main reason why we know so little about CBD’s clinical potential as an antiviral remedy.

Cannabis prohibition is exacerbating the current crisis in other ways, as well, as we discuss later in this article. For now, let’s turn our attention back to cytokines and cannabinoids. 

Several laboratory studies indicate that cannabinoid compounds – in particular, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – are immunosuppressant. This would explain why medical cannabis is beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.

Which begs the question: Could cannabis calm a cytokine storm? 

The short answer is we don’t know. There’s a lot that we still don’t understand about cannabis and the immune system.

For many years, scientific inquiry in the United States has been handcuffed by cannabis prohibition, and the federal government continues to thwart research that could shed light on the therapeutic use of cannabis and whole plant CBD-rich oil extracts. The federal stranglehold on cannabis research is the main reason why we know so little about CBD’s clinical potential as an antiviral remedy.

Cannabis prohibition is exacerbating the current crisis in other ways, as well, as we discuss later in this article. For now, let’s turn our attention back to cytokines and cannabinoids. 

Could CBD be a viable candidate for reducing mortality in critically ill patients infected with COVID-19? A couple of dozen websites are already proclaiming that CBD has antiviral applications, as if this was an established medical fact.

Actually, thus far there is only “fragmentary evidence” that points to “possible use of CBD in viral infections,” according to a team of British and Italian scientists who recently addressed this issue in the online journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. The authors referenced an in vitro study, which suggested that CBD had a direct antiviral effect against the Hepatitis C virus. But other than a single preclinical study involving Hep C, there is scant scientific evidence supporting the alleged antiviral properties of CBD.

The authors cited another study, which found that CBD reduced neuroinflammation in a virus-induced animal model of multiple sclerosis. But they acknowledge that this could have more to do with CBD’s efficacy as an anti-inflammatory compound rather than direct antiviral activity. Similarly, anecdotal accounts of using cannabidiol to treat viral infections, such as shingles and Herpes, “are plausible on the basis of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of CBD,” the scientists acknowledged, without asserting an intrinsic antiviral effect.

CBD is currently undergoing clinical trials in Israel as a treatment for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a potentially fatal condition (with a mortality rate exceeding 80 percent) caused by systemic immune rejection of an organ or bone marrow transplant. Thus far, the results are encouraging. GHVD and COVID-19 fatalities both involve extreme immune overreactions, but there’s a crucial difference: GVHD is not triggered by a virus. And CBD has never been tested as a remedy for a viral-induced cytokine storm.

Many therapeutic applications of CBD and THC are related to their anti-inflammatory prowess. But that’s not the whole story. The interplay between cannabinoids and the immune system is complex, adaptive, and bidirectional.

In certain situations, cannabinoids can potentiate immune activity. A 2014 study by Louisiana State University scientists demonstrated that regular cannabis use can increase white blood cell counts in immune deficiency disorders such as HIV, suggesting a proinfammatory, immune-boosting effect. That’s the exact opposite of what’s needed to mitigate a viral-induced cytokine storm.

Given the conflicting data on the impact of cannabinioids on immune function, medical scientists are reevaluating their ideas about inflammation and immunosuppression. As Mary Biles reported for Project CBD: “A new wave of research and mounting anecdotal evidence points towards cannabinoids having an adaptive, immunomodulating effect, rather than just suppressing immune activity.”

The ability of cannabinoids to both suppress and enhance immune function lends credence to the notion that the endocannabinoid system is involved in bidirectional immunomodulation, keeping inflammation in check under healthy conditions but enabling an inflammatory response when needed to fight infection.

Dr. Garcia de Palau, a Spanish cannabis clinician, sums it up this way: “I believe [cannabis] is immunosuppressive when there is a hyper-immune response, but otherwise it regulates and corrects the immune system. In fact, you could say it functions like the endocannabinoid system, bringing equilibrium to the organism.”

Do Topical CBD Products Work?

CBD products are not only popular, but also far easier to get your hands on than widely prohibited THC products. There are many ways to use CBD, but topicals are one of the most accessible. However, before choosing one off the shelf or online, there are a few things to know first.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound produced by cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce a feeling of being high.

CBD topicals penetrate the skin to provide targeted relief, without entering the bloodstream. This makes them a fantastic choice for anyone who wants to focus the healing properties in specific problem areas rather than feel the effects throughout their body. CBD topicals can potentially provide relief for a variety of painheadache, and skin issues such as:

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Foot or hand pain
  • Arthritis

Lo Friesen, lead chemist for cannabis wellness company Heylo, believes CBD topicals are also a fantastic preventative medicine. She says using these topicals every day, multiple times a day allows the body to not only uptake CBD quicker, but also build a CBD level in those areas and prevent worsening inflammation.

CBD topicals such as lotions, balms, gels, or creams are infused with CBD to produce skin-friendly products that contain the medicinal properties of CBD. In topical form, CBD is most popularly used for managing pain and inflammation.


SB 247

Industrial hemp research programs. The bill classifies all participants in any research program as either growers or processors and replaces the current licensing requirement, which requires a police background check, with a registration requirement. The bill will allow farmers to conduct research without partnering with a university and is Farm Bill compliant.


STATUS: Introduced Jan. 5, 2018

HB 532

Industrial hemp; removal of restrictions, registration of research program participants. Bill would remove licensing requirements but does not specify that registration and certification are required. The lack of registration and certification means that the program would not be Farm Bill compliant.


STATUS: Introduced Jan. 8, 2018

SB 691

Production of industrial hemp. Slightly different version than HB 699.

STATUS: Signed by Gov. McAuliffe 02/29/16

HB 699

Production of industrial hemp. Clarifies that it is lawful for a person with a license to manufacture industrial hemp products or engage in scientific, agricultural, or other research involving the applications of industrial hemp and that no person shall be prosecuted for the possession, cultivation, or manufacture of industrial hemp plant material or products. The current law authorizes the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt regulations necessary to license persons to grow industrial hemp or administer a research program. The bill requires the Board to adopt regulations as necessary to license persons to grow and process industrial hemp for any purpose and requires the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish a licensure program, with a maximum license fee of $250.

2015SB 955

Allows the cultivation by licensed growers of industrial hemp as part of a university-managed research program. The bill defines industrial hemp as the plant Cannabis sativa with a concentration of THC no greater than that allowed by federal law, excludes industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Drug Control Act, and bars the prosecution of a licensed grower under drug laws for the possession of industrial hemp as part of the research program. The bill directs the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt relevant regulations and establish an industrial hemp research program to be managed by public institutions of higher education. This bill is identical to HB 1277 which was introduced by Del. Yost on 7/21/14. There wais a lobby day with Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition on January 19th at the state Capitol in Richmond. Click here to download the flyer.

STATUS: SB 955 was passed in the Senate 32-5 and in the House 98-0 and was signed into law by Governor McAuliiffe on 3/16/15.

HJ 605

Requests the Commission on Rural Prosperity to consider the growth and production of industrial hemp in Virginia as a means to promote rural prosperity.

Status: Passed on 2/16/01.

HJ 94

Memorializes the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to permit the controlled, experimental cultivation of industrial hemp in Virginia.

Status: Passed on 2/18/99.

HJ 656

Establishes a six-member joint subcommittee to study the economic benefits of, and barriers to, the production of industrial hemp in Virginia.

Virginia Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

The governor of Virginia announced on Sunday that he approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state.

The legislation, which would make possessing up to one ounce of cannabis punishable by a $25 fine with no threat of jail time and no criminal record, was passed by the legislature and transmitted to the governor’s desk in March.

Prior Virginia law made simple possession punishable by a maximum $500 fine, up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) approved the legislation—SB 2 and HB 972—with no public signing ceremony amid the coronavirus outbreak, but he’s consistently expressed support for decriminalization and included a call for the policy change in his State of the Commonwealth address in January.

You Can Help Delta9 Scientists Fight Covid-19

Hello Farmers, Processors and Retailers,
This email is not exactly what you would expect from an analytical hemp testing lab but we are trying to help with the current crisis and this is urgent.

Dr. Caffrey has developed an antibody test for Covid-19 immunity but she cannot start testing the general public until we collect 50 blood samples for CONFIRMED POSITIVE COVID-19 VICTIMS WHO ARE RECOVERING.If you have recovered or if you have family or friends that have recovered, she will meet you anywhere in Virginia to draw one tube of blood.Please share this information with everyone you know.Dr. Caffrey’s email is or you can email me with any questions.

We are still open for business and we are still analyzing samples. We have lowered the price of potency testing to $50 per sample. Contact Cody today to arrange drop off.‌