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Here's how Virginia's new marijuana law will affect drivers and cars

13News Now is answering questions about marijuana legalization ahead of the July 1 rollout.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When it comes to the rules of the road, many 13News Now viewers want to know how the new marijuana legalization laws will affect drivers in Virginia.

"If you smell like marijuana and driving, can you get a ticket or [if] the car smells like it?" asked one viewer.

"I have a question: can you sit in your own personal car and smoke marijuana. I like to be respectful of those that live in the house," asked another.

RELATED: Asked and answered: Virginia’s new marijuana laws won’t legalize usage while driving

While simple possession and home cultivation will be legalized starting July 1, the state law will not allow drivers or passengers to consume marijuana while a motor vehicle is being driven.

Here's the exact language from the state's cannabis website:

Existing safety measures will remain in place, including prohibiting use of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven; possessing marijuana on school grounds, while operating a school bus, in a motor vehicle transporting passengers for hire, or in a commercial vehicle.

On Wednesday night, Clerk of Circuit Court in Newport News Angela Reason held a "Conversations with the Clerk" session focusing on marijuana legalization. 

Attorney Tim Clancy, a Hampton-based lawyer, was in attendance virtually to answer questions about some of the confusion Virginians may have surrounding driving and cannabis.

“Let’s say you are pulled over for a moving violation and marijuana is smelled in the car, what could potentially happen?”

"There’s been a lot of change in that area, effective March 1 of 2021. Police officers were restricted in their reason and ability to pull cars over. Let’s assume you get pulled over for speeding and they smell marijuana: in years past, that would be probable cause to search the occupants -- called the plain smell test -- which allowed for probable cause. As of March 1, the smell of marijuana does not give probable cause to search anything. In fact it says officers may not search a car solely on the smell of marijuana," Clancy said. 

In 2020, state lawmakers passed both HB 5058 and SB 5029, identical bills that, "provides that no law-enforcement officer may lawfully stop, search, or seize any person, place, or thing solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana, and no evidence discovered or obtained as a result of such unlawful search or seizure shall be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding."

This took effect on March 1 of 2021.

"If it is out of sight, let's say they have it in the glove box or trunk, is that okay?"

"There would be no prohibition, if it's not accessible by people under age 21, something in a glove box or closed container is not in the public, so there’s no prohibition on that whatsoever," Clancy said.

"You want to think about what the laws are for alcohol. You don't want it sitting out on the seat. Even if they can't smell, if they see it, you don't want that situation. It's like what you would do with an open container [of alcohol], is how you should address the situation," Del. Marcia Price said.

13News Now is still working to get answers to your marijuana questions. Text us a question at 757-628-6200, our team will do our best to clear up any confusion ahead of next week’s legalization.

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