The laws surrounding marijuana are constantly changing. However, both medical and recreational marijuana is still generally illegal in Virginia.
In fact, despite recent changes to Virginia’s marijuana laws, you can be arrested for simply having marijuana paraphernalia in your possession.
The largest difference between current laws and those in prior years is that the definition of “paraphernalia” has become more specific, especially in the distinction between paraphernalia used by producers and paraphernalia owned by users.
In this article, we’ll discuss how the Virginia Code treats marijuana paraphernalia.
We’ll also describe the circumstances where the possession of marijuana paraphernalia can lead to an arrest.
Is the Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia Illegal in Virginia?
In specifically circumstances and for specific forms of paraphernalia, yes.
According to Virginia Code § 54.1-3466, possession of certain forms of paraphernalia (such as equipment for packaging and selling marijuana) can lead to an arrest.
Further, the possession of marijuana paraphernalia by itself is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia which can lead to both heavy fines and potential jail time.
Defining “Paraphernalia” in Virginia
Virginia Code § 18.2-265.1 gives a complete list of the types of drug paraphernalia that are illegal in Virginia.
The list includes any kits used for growing or manufacturing marijuana, such as scales, sifters, pipes, containers, and roach clips.
Of course, some of these items—such as containers or scales—can be used for legitimate purposes.
Therefore, to prove that these items were used for marijuana (or any other type of drug), the prosecution would have to use other, circumstantial evidence.
For example, it’s not illegal to own a spice grinder in Virginia.
However, if an officer finds a spice grinder next to several other marijuana-related items, it may count as paraphernalia.
The main risk of being caught with marijuana paraphernalia is that it can lead to other charges.
For example, if the police see marijuana paraphernalia in your car or home, they’ll have reason to believe that there is actual marijuana nearby.
Seeing marijuana paraphernalia often gives the police probable cause to search for marijuana or marijuana residue in the area where they found the paraphernalia.
“Probable cause” means that the police have enough evidence to believe you have committed a crime.
That gives them the right to search both you and your property if there’s a reason to believe the property searched contains evidence of the crime.
Testing for Marijuana
If the police find paraphernalia, but no marijuana, they’ll usually test for the presence of marijuana residue.
If you’re in a traffic stop, they’ll use a field test kit.
Even if the owner has cleaned the pipe, bong, or other paraphernalia, the police may still be able to find marijuana residue with this test.
If the test is positive for marijuana, the police can arrest you and charge you with possession of marijuana.
The amount of marijuana doesn’t matter. Even a trace of marijuana is enough for a possession charge in Virginia.
Penalties for the Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia in Virginia
If the police arrest you for only the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, an experienced attorney may be able to get the judge to dismiss your case.
This is especially true if it’s something that can be explained, such as a spice grinder or rolling papers.
If the police find other items, such as packaging materials unique to marijuana production and distribution, the charges will be harder to fight.
In this scenario, it’s wise to speak with an attorney immediately to prepare a defense.
Penalties for Distributing Marijuana Paraphernalia in Virginia
If the police find several marijuana paraphernalia items, they might make the case that you intended to sell or distribute those items to other people.
Virginia Code § 18.2-265.3 makes distributing marijuana paraphernalia a Class 1 misdemeanor.
This means that a conviction could lead to a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 12 months in jail.
Specifically, it is a Class 6 felony in Virginia. This means a fine of up to $2,500 as well as a very real chance of jail time.
Possession of marijuana paraphernalia in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by both fines and jail time.
However, being caught with paraphernalia also gives police probable cause to search you or your car for drugs, which can lead to further charges.
Remember that the police can use a field test to test the paraphernalia for marijuana residue.
If they find any residue on a scales, baggies, or other distribution-related items they can arrest you for possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
If you’re arrested for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, but not marijuana possession, you should be able to fight the charge in court.
In addition, if you have a simple marijuana possession charge, you can sometimes make a plea deal to amend the charge to possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
That amended charge may allow you to avoid a driver’s license suspension.
In any scenario, you’ll want to avoid having a drug conviction on your permanent criminal record.
For this reason, it’s often wise to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges against you.