Today at 12:01 a.m., a wide range of bills approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam officially became law in the Commonwealth. Below is a list of the most notable changes:
Adults 21 and older are now allowed to have up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational private use and gift up to once ounce of marijuana to another adult.
Last year, Virginia had initiated steps to legalize marijuana by 2024, however Governor Northam signed S.B. 1406 and H.B. 2312 which accelerated legalization. These laws also allow each household to cultivate up to four marijuana plants, so long as they are kept away from children and clearly labeled.
Retail sales of marijuana, however, won’t be legalized until 2024.
New laws are now making it easier for people in Virginia to cast their ballots. H.B. 1968 allows registrars, at their discretion, to offer in-person absentee voting on Sundays. Additionally, S.B. 1097 waives the witness signature requirement on absentee ballots during a public health emergency.
New laws are also addressing voting and accessibility. H.B. 1921 permits curbside voting for those with disabilities and S.B. 1331 requires localities to have tools to allow voters with visual impairments or print disabilities to electronically receive and mark absentee ballots.
H.B. 1790 allows schools to utilize remote learning during days in which school is closed for inclement weather or emergency situations.
H.B. 2013 requires every school board in the Commonwealth to adopt a policy prohibiting the board from filing a lawsuit against a student or their parents because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes a school meal debt.
S.B. 1475 details that search warrants must be completed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless a judge or a magistrate authorizes a search for another time based on good cause.
H.B. 2128 allows the Department of State Police to complete a background check before a firearm may be transferred within five business days instead of three.
H.B. 1992 details that a person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member cannot purchase, possess, or transport a firearm.
H.B. 2081 prohibits people carrying firearms within 40 feet of a polling place, including one hour before and one hour after its use as a polling place.
H.B. 2263 and S.B. 1165 make Virginia the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty.
H.B. 1848 makes discrimination based on disability an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Virginia Human Rights Act.
H.B. 1889 extends eviction protections for renters experiencing financial hardship due to COVID 19 through July 1, 2022.
CONFEDERATES & SEGREGATIONISTS
Two bills taking effect aim to remove honors from Confederates and segregationists. H.B. 1854 allows Arlington County to rename its stretch of Lee Highway, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. H.B. 2208 allows a statue of Harry Byrd, Sr., which stands in Capitol Square in Richmond, to be taken down. Byrd, a segregationist, served as governor of Virginia and as a U.S. senator.
H.B. 1879 and S.B. 1299 allow restaurants to continue to sell cocktails for takeout and delivery, something that was made legal during the pandemic, until July 1, 2022.
H.B. 2159 prohibits any individual 16 years of age or older, including a corporation, from intentionally releasing, discarding or causing to be released or discarded any nonbiodegradable balloon outdoors. There is a civil penalty for those convicted of $25 per balloon to be paid into the Game Protection Fund.
S.B. 1312 prohibits any person with a conviction of animal cruelty from working for a pet shop, dealer, or commercial dog breeder.