New laws: Virginia marijuana, gaming, overtime, ballot laws take effect July 1

(The Center Square) – Several pieces of Virginia legislation will be in effect on July 1, which include the legalization of the possession of marijuana, a ban on skill game gambling, new overtime requirements and the loosening of absentee ballot laws.

Beginning next Thursday, it will be fully legal for a person to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to smoke it or use the product in other ways. Growing marijuana plants will also be legal but limited to four per household. It will be permitted to share up to an ounce of marijuana, but it will be illegal to sell marijuana or receive any payment for providing marijuana to another person.

Possessing more than one ounce of marijuana but not more than a pound of marijuana could get someone a $25 civil penalty. However, possessing more than one pound would subject the person to a felony charge.

Commercial cultivation, transport, and sale of the product are set to become legal in 2024 to allow the commonwealth time to establish regulations and licenses. Local governments will be allowed to opt out of marijuana sales within their jurisdiction via an ordinance but cannot prohibit the use and possession of marijuana.

Some laws will affect businesses.

Skilled gaming machines are set to be illegal on July 1. These machines, which are often used at restaurants, truck stops, convenience stores and other small businesses operated in a legal gray area for decades, but lawmakers opted to ban them after legalizing casinos in select areas. The legislation faces a legal challenge, with the plaintiffs seeking an injunction to prohibit the state from enforcing the ban until after the case is settled.

Legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disability will also go into effect. A change to overtime laws will require that businesses pay the same overtime benefits to salaried employees that they do to hourly employees. A law will go into effect to require employers to pay sick leave for home healthcare workers whose services include those who receive Medicaid benefits. This bill will only affect those who work at least 20 hours per week or 90 hours per month.

Bills that affect absentee voting will also go into effect in July, four months before the state holds its elections for governor, the House of Delegates and some local races. One bill allows local governments to provide early voting opportunities on Sundays but will not require it. Another measure ends the requirement that a witness signs onto an absentee ballot during a public health emergency. The state of emergency for COVID-19, however, is set to expire on June 30.

Two laws that affect cycling in Virginia will also go into effect: one bill requires vehicles to switch lanes when passing bicycles if the car cannot maintain three feet of space from the cyclist. The other allows cyclists to ride side-by-side with two people in one lane.


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