Virginia Drug Laws
Virginia drug laws are very straightforward and harsh, with the penalties associated with the type of drug crime and, very often, the amount and type of drug involved in the offense. Throughout this section there will be many distinctions made between the different levels, or schedules, of controlled substances. If you want to know more about the controlled substances schedules, and the reasons and substances in the different schedules, look at the U.S. Department of Justice website here for information on the Controlled Substances Act. In addition, a list of controlled substances by schedule is here, and a list of controlled substances by schedule is here. Although cannabis (marijuana) is a Schedule I controlled substance, the Virginia state laws are narrowly tailored to cannabis as its own category of controlled substance. Information on how a Virginia drug lawyer can help is available here.
- Marijuana and Synthetic Cannabinoids
- Possession of Controlled Substances Generally
- Manufacture, Sale, and Distribution of Controlled Substances
Transporting Controlled Substances into Virginia (Section 18.2-248.01)
An individual is guilty of this crime if the individual (1) transports (2) with intent to sell or distribute (3) at least one ounce of cocaine, one ounce of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or at least five ounces of marijuana. Section 18.2-248.01. An individual guilty of transporting controlled substances into Virginia faces a felony conviction with five to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million, and a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. Section 18.2-248.01. If an individual has at least one prior conviction of this violation, then the individual faces the same penalties but with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Section 18.2-248.01.
Possession of Controlled Substances (Section 18.2-250)
It is illegal for an individual (1) to knowingly (2) possess a controlled substance (3) obtained without a valid prescription or through authorized means. Section 18.2-250(A). The penalties are as follows:
- Possessing a Schedule I or II controlled substance: Class 5 felony (one to 10 years in prison, OR, at the discretion of a jury or the court trying the case, up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 – see Section 18.2-10(e)),
- Possessing a Schedule III controlled substance: Class 1 misdemeanor (up to 12 months in jail and / or a fine of up to $2,500 – see Section 18.2-11(a)),
- Possessing a Schedule IV controlled substance: Class 2 misdemeanor (up to six months in jail and / or a fine of up to $1,000 – see Section 18.2-11(b)),
- Possessing a Schedule V controlled substance: Class 3 misdemeanor (a fine of up to $500 – see Section 18.2-11(c)),
- Possessing a Schedule VI controlled substance: Class 4 misdemeanor (a fine of up to $250 – see Section 18.2-11(d)).
Possession of Marijuana (Section 18.2-250.1)
It is illegal for an individual (1) to knowingly (2) possess marijuana (3) that was not obtained with a valid prescription or through authorized means. Section 18.2-250.1(A). An individual convicted of possession of marijuana for the first time faces a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. An individual who is guilty of this crime with a prior conviction for violating this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and faces up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Section 18.2-250.1(A); 18.2-11(a).
1st Time Offense of Possession of Controlled Substances: Probation (Section 18.2-251)
If an individual is found to be guilty of possessing a controlled substance (including marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids) without any prior convictions for drug-related offenses and without having ever been subject to probation as set forth under this section, then if the court and the individual consent the individual can be put on probation and proceedings against the individual will be deferred. Section 18.2-251.
The individual must successfully complete probation under terms and conditions set by the court that may include, but are not limited to:
- Substance abuse assessment;
- Treatment or education regarding controlled substances and abuse;
- Remaining drug and alcohol free, verified by drug testing;
- Individual must attempt to be employed;
- At least 100 hours of community service (for felony offenses) or 24 hours of community service (for misdemeanor offenses).
Distributing Controlled Substances to Minors (Section 18.2-255)
If an individual (1) over 18 years old (2) intentionally (3) sells or gives controlled substances to a minor at least three years younger than the individual, or gets a minor to help distribute controlled substances, then the individual is guilty of a felony accompanied with penalties of 10 to 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Section 18.2-255(A).
Furthermore, if the individual is guilty of distributing Schedule I or II controlled substances, or at least one ounce of marijuana to minors, the individual will have the enhanced penalty of a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. If the individual is guilty of distributing less than one ounce of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids to minors, then the individual faces the enhanced penalty of a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence. Section 18.2-255(A).
Selling, Distributing Controlled Substances Near Certain Areas (Section 18.2-255.2)
It is illegal for individual to sell, distribute, or manufacture drugs on or near certain properties. The penalty for violating this section is a felony conviction with one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Section 18.2-255.2. Violating this section constitutes a separate, distinct felony from the primary felony of manufacturing, selling, or distributing controlled substances. Section 18.2-255.2(B).
If an individual can prove that he or she only distributed drugs to accommodate another person (not an inmate) with no intent to profit or get the other person dependent on the drug, then the individual is only guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Section 18.2-255.2(B). Upon a second conviction for violating this section, the guilty party will receive an enhanced penalty of a mandatory minimum of one year in prison if the individual was manufacturing, selling, or possessing with intent to distribute Schedule I, II, or III controlled substances, or marijuana. Section 18.2-255.2(B). The prohibited areas are the following:
- Properties of any elementary, middle, or high school, or any two-year or four-year college or university, or any child day center;
- Public property (or property open to public use) within 1,000 feet of such school, higher education institution, or child day center property;
- School buses;
- At a designated school bus stop, or within 1,000 feet of a designated school bus stop – but only if the property is public or open to the public and the offense occurs at the time children are either waiting for the school bus to arrive or at the time children are being dropped off by a school bus;
- Property of a public library, community center, or recreation center, or;
- Public property or property open to the public within 1,000 feet of a public library, community center, or recreation center.
Conspiracy to Commit Drug-Related Offense (Section 18.2-256)
If an individual conspires to commit any drug-related offense (or, more specifically, any violation of any section of the Drug Control Act), then the individual faces the same minimum and maximum penalties of the offense the individual conspired to commit. Section 18.2-256.
Attempting to Commit a Drug-Related Offense (Section 18.2-257)
Although in the state of Virginia, attempting a felony ordinarily falls under Section 18.2-26, attempting a drug-related offense falls under this section. If an individual attempts to commit a drug-related felony then the individual faces one to 10 years in prison or the penalty of the felony (if the felony’s penalty is less and the court chooses to impose the lesser penalty). Section 18.2-257(a). If an individual attempts to commit a drug-related misdemeanor then the individual faces a Class 2 misdemeanor (up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000) or the penalty of the misdemeanor (if the offense’s penalty is less and the court chooses to impose it). Section 18.2-257(b).