New Virginia laws on guns, gambling, statues, weed possession start Wednesday

Hundreds of new laws in Virginia go into effect Wednesday, July 1 that could affect your life.

The laws reflect the Democratic majority in the Virginia General Assembly and the governor’s mansion.

More than 1,200 bills cleared the legislature, and were signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, with most taking effect Wednesday. Others, including a minimum wage increase, to $9.50 per hour won’t become law until 2021. A law banning holding a cellphone while driving will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Related: Which Maryland laws will take effect July 1?


New legislation rolls back a 24-hour waiting period and the requirement that a woman undergo an ultrasound and receive printed counseling materials before having the procedure.


Lawmakers voted to legalize casino gambling in five cities, including Richmond, if voters give their approval in local referendums. The four other cities would be Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Sports betting will be legal, regulated by the Virginia Lottery. Betting on games with in-state colleges will be prohibited.

Confederate statues

As of July 1, localities will have the ability to decide the fate of Confederate statues in their jurisdictions. Previous Virginia law made it illegal to remove war monuments. Under the new law, localities can remove, relocate or contextualize monuments on public property.

Driver’s license suspensions

Drivers will no longer have their licenses suspended for unpaid fines and court costs. Last year, lawmakers approved a budget amendment proposed by Northam, which reinstated 600,000 suspended licenses to Virginians.


New laws eliminate the requirement that school principals report misdemeanors committed at school to police. Parents will get at least 24 hours’ notice before a school holds a lockdown drill.


Several new laws go into effect July 1, including a ban on the possession of firearms by a person subject to a restraining order. New requirements call for a background check on all firearm sales and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month. A lost or stolen gun will need to be reported within 48 hours.

Health insurance

Health insurers will be limited to charging a maximum of $50 per month for insulin. Virginia is creating a state health insurance exchange, rather than relying on the federal marketplace.for people to buy health insurance.

In-state tuition regardless of citizenship status

Students living in the U.S. without documentation, but who still meet Virginia residency requirements will be eligible for in-state colleges and universities. Under the law, a student will have to show proof of filing taxes, will have to have attended high school in Virginia for two years or been homeschooled there or passed a high school equivalency test before enrolling.


Furthering the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects lesbian, gay and transgender people from discrimination in employment, Virginia added sexual identity and gender identity to its protected classes, making it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment and public accommodations. In addition, conversion therapy on minors will be banned.


As of July 1, people found in possession of under 1 ounce of marijuana will face a $25 civil fine. There will no longer be jail time or a criminal conviction. Criminal records of simple possession will be sealed, and employers and schools will be banned from asking about prior simple possession convictions.


Lawmakers raised the gas tax by 7.6 cents a gallon and created the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, to oversee and finance transportation projects in Richmond, Ashland, and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan.


Starting Wednesday, voters will no longer need to show a photo ID at polls, but will be required to show other documents that show the name and address of the voter. For absentee voting, voters will no longer be asked to state an excuse. Election Day will be recognized as a state holiday, with the elimination of Lee-Jackson Day, which paid tribute to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that the new cellphone law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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