Can I Keep My Guns If I Have A Virginia Marijuana Card?
A Look at the Facts Surrounding Medical Marijuana in Virginia and Gun Laws
Having a Virginia medical marijuana card affirms your right to access natural relief for a number of common problems including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, and PTSD. But how does being on a Virginia medical marijuana patient registry affect your right to own a gun?
In Virginia, exercising your 2nd Amendment Rights is as American as apple pie. According to a 2017 Pew Research survey, three in ten Americans own a firearm of some sort, and an additional 11 percent of respondents said they live with someone who owns one.
Gun laws might be controversial overall, but just about everyone can agree that having a medical marijuana card should not automatically block you from owning a firearm. Despite the fact that people on both sides of the aisle agree using cannabis as medicine is not a disqualifier, the actual laws in existence right now put the legality of being both a gun owner and a medical marijuana user in question.
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers. Giving up one right in exchange for the other does not align well with American values, but conflicting state and federal laws are making some people in Virginia feel like they need to choose.
While you contemplate your options with your right to bear arms, start by arming yourself with information that will help you make the best decision for you, your family, and your lifestyle. Keep reading to learn more about the facts surrounding gun ownership and medical marijuana in Virginia.
State Law Vs. Federal Law - Medical Marijuana
What Does Virginia Law Say About Medical Marijuana?
According to Virginia law, residents of the state can legally use medical marijuana to treat their approved conditions with a recommendation from a doctor. This means that any adult in Virginia that has been diagnosed with a qualifying condition can get a marijuana card and visit licensed dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana products.
Virginia has also recently approved an adult-use marijuana bill, and it is awaiting signature from Governor Northam. The majority of the provisions in the bill will not take effect until 2024, and the state will be working on getting all the proper logistics in place until then.
What Does Federal Law Say About Medical Marijuana?
The Federal Government has been incredibly resistant to changing its stance on marijuana, regardless of the progress the states have made. Despite the fact that 33 states now have at least some form of legalization in effect and more than a third of the country thinks that marijuana should be legalized, the plant and its extracts remain a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
This means that the US Drug Enforcement Agency does not recognize any medicinal benefit to marijuana, and it is considered a dangerous substance in the same category as heroin and LSD.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed the MORE Act, which is the most comprehensive legalization bill in history, but it still needs to pass the Senate. The most likely result will be that the DEA ultimately declassifies marijuana so that states can fully embrace the legalization they each choose to adopt.
Medical Marijuana and Guns: It’s Complicated
Adding guns into the mix complicates matters. Technically, you are not allowed to own or purchase a firearm in Virginia if it is against Federal law. And technically, because of draconian laws enacted by the 1968 Gun Control Act, it is against Federal law to possess a gun when you use or are addicted to a controlled substance, live in the same household with someone who uses a controlled substance, or even hang out with people who use controlled substances.
This law was an obvious measure enabling courts to intensify charges on anyone suspected of dealing illegal drugs. However, the ATF released a statement in 2011 reaffirming its intention to continue enforcing this law despite changing attitudes in the states about marijuana.
Upholding Second Amendment Rights for Virginia Marijuana Cardholders
There are no laws that directly address the situation for marijuana cardholders in Virginia. But there are a few facts that point to support for upholding your second amendment rights when you choose to use therapeutic cannabis to treat approved conditions and symptoms.
1. The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment Protects States that Have Legalized Marijuana as Well as Businesses and Residents Acting According to State Laws
In 2014, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was signed into law. The amendment prohibits the use of Federal funds for the pursuit of marijuana law enforcement in states that have adopted their own laws.
This means that businesses and individuals acting within the parameters of state law are to some degree protected from being prosecuted at a Federal level. It acknowledges the freedom of the states to establish their own laws and enforcement related to marijuana.
2. Virginia’s Firearm Purchase Eligibility Test Omits Medical Marijuana Use
Virginia’s Firearm Purchase Eligibility Test has 21 questions. The only question that addresses marijuana asks the following:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any controlled substance? The Federal Gun Control Act defines an addicted person, or unlawful user, as a person who has a conviction for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year or persons found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided that the test was administered within the past year.”
The wording of this question seems to directly and purposefully leave space for medical marijuana users to truthfully answer with a “no,” unless they had failed a drug test or have been convicted of a related crime within the last year.
3. Virginia Does Not Share its Medical Marijuana Registry With the Federal Government
The Virginia medical marijuana registry is not shared with the Federal government. As a matter of fact, no state that has legalized medical marijuana shares this information at the Federal level. This means that it will not come up on any Federal background checks.
Virginia does require a criminal history check when purchasing a firearm, but this is only to ensure that you do not have outstanding warrants, active protective or restraining orders, or convictions that make you a higher risk for gun violence.
The state does not require you to register your gun unless it is a machine gun.
When Will Gun and Marijuana Laws Be Clarified?
It seems unlikely that anything related to gun ownership and medical marijuana is going to be clarified before the Federal Government declassifies marijuana. Legislators in Missouri have been trying to add an amendment to existing medical marijuana laws to protect second amendment rights. However, lawmakers who object point out that no one who is using marijuana legally has run into any problems with gun ownership at a Federal level.
One thing that has always been clear, however, is that prosecution for illegal marijuana use intensifies when there are guns involved—whether they were purchased legally or not.
How Can I Protect My Second Amendment Rights When I Use Medical Marijuana?
The most important thing you can do to protect your rights as a gun-owner who uses medical marijuana, is to ensure you are doing everything within the boundaries of Virginia law. This means making sure your firearms comply with state regulation, and having a Virginia marijuana card if you are going to possess and use medical marijuana.
If you do not yet have a Virginia marijuana card and you suffer from a qualifying condition, we can help! Just give our staff a call at (888) 633-5808, or schedule an evaluation appointment online today.
When you have a Virginia marijuana card, you can be assured that your marijuana use is perfectly legal, possibly protecting your Second Amendment rights as well.