Cannabis legalization goes into effect tomorrow in Virginia and—as the saying goes—good seed makes a good crop. Advocates are getting ready to hand out 10,000 cannabis seeds on Thursday, July 1 to celebrate the first day of legal pot in the commonwealth.
Organized by Virginia Marijuana Justice (VAMJ), “The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share” hopes to raise awareness about legal home cultivation, and to draw attention to “holes” in Virginia’s new cannabis laws.
The seeds—ovular in form and roughly the size of a peppercorn—are being donated by cultivators and meticulously packed into thousands of small ziplock bags by volunteers.
They will be distributed at three locations around the state: the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington, Your CBD Store outside Richmond, and a private home in Charlottesville. Those looking to lend a helping hand can sign up to volunteer using this Google form.
In 2015, VAMJ’s sister branch in Washington, D.C. organized a similar seed handout to mark the passage of Initiative 71, a ballot measure that legalized possession and cultivation in the District.
“Some people didn’t know about the new law, as it pertains to home cultivation, until our volunteers handed them a free packet of seeds,” Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, said in a press release. “So there is a significant educational component to our giveaways.”
In April, Gov. Ralph Northam signed off on a bill that legalized the possession, cultivation, and sale of recreational cannabis in Virginia. The new statute, which goes into effect on Thursday, allows adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, and to grow a maximum of four plants per household.
VAMJ says those limits are too low, and fail to take into account the commonwealth’s skyrocketing growing demand for cannabis. The group is pushing lawmakers to raise the cap on home cultivation to six plants per person and up to 12 plants per household. In neighboring D.C., adults are authorized to grow up to six plants per household provided only three are mature, meaning they are ready to produce flower.
“We will continue to make our message clear that we want to be free to grow an amount of cannabis to actually meet our needs, and for punitive penalties to be eliminated,” said Michael Krawitz, co-founder of VAMJ. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t start out of the gate with more reasonable limits, however, it is a good starting point. Too many people will still wind up in the illicit market to fill the void created by these unrealistic plant and possession limits.”
Cannabis won’t be completely legal in Virginia on July 1—owning larger amounts of cannabis will still be considered a crime. Under the new law, possessing more than one ounce of pot will be a civil penalty punishable by a $25 ticket, and amounts above one pound will be considered a felony.
Some provisions of the law regarding criminal penalties and retail sales are still subject to change, and will need to be reenacted next year by the Virginia General Assembly. They will also need approval from Virginia’s next governor, who is up for election in November.
VAMJ’s seed giveaway has stirred some controversy, with some advocates criticizing the event as irresponsible given the still-tentative nature of cannabis laws in Virginia. Last week, an organization with a similar name clarified it was not the group behind the seed event.
“Marijuana Justice would never have the caucasity to give away free seeds on opening day of Virginia legalization, especially since it’s not clear in the law,” Marijuana Justice Virginia tweeted on June 25.