Clarifying Virginia's new marijuana laws

Independent News Network (INN)

RICHMOND, Va. — As close as Virginia is to legal possession of marijuana come July 1, it's also no closer to the end of questions people may have about the process.

Here are some of the questions -- and answers -- with Ashna Khanna, the legislative director for the ACLU of Virginia.

Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize possession of up to an ounce for adults 21 years and older. With the legalization date now less than two weeks away, public education efforts are underway to make sure Virginians are educated on the topic.

Now that pot is legal for personal consumption, are you allowed to smoke it at work in the designated smoking area?

You can personally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, the key term is for 21 years and up. Four plants -- two mature and two immature -- per household. But when I think about private use, that's within home and private property vs. out in public. We want people to be aware of where they're growing it and where they're having it.

According to the advocacy group Virginia NORML, legalized possession applies both in private and in public. But when it comes to consumption, it may be legal to use it on a private residence but public consumption will still be illegal.

"As long as you don’t have intent to distribute, give or sell to a minor or intoxicated person. As long as you have it, but no intent to distribute, that’s legal," Khanna said.

Can your business/work make rules either for or against having pot in your possession? Can an employer still drug test employees?

As private companies, they can put their conditions and they can also drug test. Employers who want to still in their drug test consider marijuana an illegal substance -- as something they’re not accepting -- that can still very much be the case.

Khanna says that while possession is legalized in the eyes of the law, private companies will have the right to operate with their own set of work conditions and guidelines, and says it will depend on each company individually.

It’s up to each company themselves and obviously, it makes a difference if it’s a national or state company. It’s up to them whether they want to drug test you according to company policy, but they can be okay with it as well. But depending on the job, employer, some companies are okay with it and may not even drug test.

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Lynchburg, VA

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