New Marijuana Laws Take Effect In Connecticut, South Dakota And Virginia
It’s been an active year for marijuana reform—and that’s clearly demonstrated by the fact that new laws legalizing cannabis for recreational or medical use go into effect in three additional states on Thursday.
Recreational marijuana legalization policies passed by lawmakers are now in effect in Connecticut and Virginia, while medical cannabis has been implemented in South Dakota following voter approval of a ballot initiative last year. This comes days after adult-use marijuana legalization took effect in New Mexico.
Not all of the components of the new laws are immediately in force. Here’s a rundown of what is and isn’t legal in each state as of July 1:
In Virginia, public possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults over 21 is legal, and personal cultivation of up to four plants at home is also allowed. Private sharing of up to an ounce of marijuana between adults is also legal, as long as no remuneration is involved.
According to a website launched by Virginia regulators this month, “all records of misdemeanor possession with intent to distribute marijuana arrests, charges, and convictions will be automatically sealed from public view in the Virginia State Police’s systems” starting on Thursday as well.
Regulators can start developing rules for adult-use retail establishments starting on July 1, shops cannot open until January 1, 2024 and it will “take time for the authority to hire staff, write regulations, and implement equity and safety initiatives.”
Most of the legal cannabis sales provisions of the law are subject to reenactment by the legislature under the final deal agreed to by lawmakers earlier this year, meaning that the timeline could end up shifting after the next legislative session.
In the meantime, activists with Virginia Marijuana Justice will be celebrating the implementation of legalization on Thursday by giving out thousands of free cannabis seeds to adults over 21 so they can grow their own plants at home.
As of Thursday, adults 21 and older in Connecticut can now possess as much as 1.5 ounces of marijuana.
However, there’s a delayed rollout of home grow. Medical cannabis patients can start growing up to six plants starting on October 1. When it comes to recreational marijuana, adults in the state can begin cultivating for personal use on July 1, 2023.
Regulators are aiming to launch retail sales early in 2022.
As the state ACLU chapter notes, people under 18 can no longer be arrested for simple marijuana possession, and those between 18 and 20 who possess small amounts of cannabis can only be punished by a $50 civil fine.
The war on cannabis, like the war on drugs overall, ruined millions of lives. We will stand by, ready to act to ensure that police abide by the new law and respect all resident's rights. https://t.co/BhPVns0pSf
— ACLU of Connecticut (@acluct) June 30, 2021
The smell of marijuana can also no longer be used as the basis for police to stop and search people.
Beginning July 1, 2022, individuals in the state can petition to have other cannabis convictions erased, such as for possession of marijuana paraphernalia or the sale of small amounts of cannabis.
In South Dakota, voters approved separate ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use in November, despite Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) opposition to either policy change. The adult-use measure was struck down by a judge in February following challenges over its constitutionality–and the decision is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court—but the medical marijuana initiative is still set to go into effect on Thursday.
Technically, marijuana cardholders can now legally have up to three ounces of cannabis—but only if they have a valid registration card, and regulators have until November 18 to begin issuing those. Patients who have an out-of-state medical marijuana card or one issued by a tribe of which they are a member, however, can now legally possess cannabis without arrest under guidance issued Wednesday by the state Highway Patrol.
The guidance also stipulates that, even for a person without a medical cannabis card, they will not be arrested as long as they are in possession of fewer than three ounces, claim to have a debilitating medical condition and can provide documentation related to that condition from a medical doctor.
Home cultivation of up to six medical cannabis plants is also now legal for cardholders. But again, that policy change is still contingent on cards being issued.
While state-licensed dispensaries aren’t expected to open until next year, a medical marijuana operation is actually launching on Thursday at the Flandreau Santee Sioux reservation.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department of the Minnehaha County, the state’s highest-population country, recently said it will not be pursuing low-level marijuana cases—regardless of medical need—because of the medical cannabis policy change. Similarly, the Sioux Falls Police Department and the Lincoln County State’s Attorney’s Office said on Wednesday that they would be revising their enforcement policies accordingly as well.
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