Medical Marijuana Cards in VA - Rethink-Rx
marijuana and gun ownership in Virginia

Gun Laws and Cannabis in Virginia

Obtaining a medical marijuana card in Virginia allows you to access natural relief for various common issues like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, and PTSD. However, it’s important to understand how having this card might impact your ability to own a firearm according to the law.

In Virginia, the Second Amendment Rights involving gun ownership are deeply ingrained. A Pew Research survey 2017 revealed that about 30% of Americans own firearms, with an additional 11% living with firearm owners.

While the connection between medical marijuana use and gun ownership might seem straightforward, the actual legal landscape is complex and not in alignment with a common consensus. Both proponents and opponents of medical cannabis acknowledge that using it for medicinal purposes shouldn’t automatically disqualify someone from owning a firearm. Yet, current laws create uncertainty about being a medical marijuana patient and a gun owner in Virginia.

Unfortunately, finding a clear solution isn’t easy. Sacrificing one right for the other goes against American values, yet conflicting state and federal laws leave some Virginians feeling compelled to choose.

As you consider your options regarding gun ownership, educating yourself about the information that will help you make the right decision for yourself, your loved ones, and your lifestyle is crucial. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the interplay of gun ownership and medical marijuana in Virginia.

State vs. Federal Laws on Medical Marijuana

Virginia’s Stance on Medical Marijuana

Under Virginia law, residents can legally use medical marijuana to address approved conditions with a doctor’s recommendation. This implies that adults diagnosed with qualifying conditions in Virginia can obtain a medical marijuana card and purchase medical marijuana products from licensed dispensaries. Additionally, an adult use bill has recently been approved in Virginia. Although most of its provisions have yet to be enacted, the state is working on establishing the necessary logistics. Possession and use of cannabis is legal in Virginia.

Federal Regulations on Medical Marijuana

In contrast, the federal government has maintained its strict stance on marijuana, disregarding the progress made by individual states like Virginia. Despite 33 states legalizing marijuana in some form and over a third of the population supporting its legalization, the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance remains unchanged. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorization equates marijuana with dangerous substances like heroin and LSD. While the MORE Act, a comprehensive legalization bill, passed the House of Representatives, it still awaits Senate approval. This legislation will likely prompt the DEA to reclassify marijuana, allowing states to pursue their chosen legalization paths.

Additional good news at the federal level came recently when a federal appeals court in New Orleans concluded that federal restrictions prohibiting marijuana users from possessing firearms are unconstitutional. This is not the first time the constitutionality of the federal stance has been challenged. Challenging federal statute 18 U.S. Code 922(g) (Gun Control Act of 1968), attorneys in Vera Cooper et. Al. v. Attorney General of the United States established that cannabis’ criminalization and classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance had no empirical basis. This argument is particularly important to those who use cannabis as a therapeutic measure.

Navigating Medical Marijuana and Firearm Ownership

Incorporating firearms into this equation complicates matters. Technically, possessing or purchasing a firearm in Virginia that contradicts federal law is prohibited. Moreover, due to strict laws enacted by the 1968 Gun Control Act, owning a firearm is prohibited for those who use or are addicted to controlled substances, live with controlled substance users, or associate with them. Although this measure aimed to enhance charges against suspected illegal drug dealers, the ATF reiterated its commitment to enforcing this outdated law despite changing attitudes towards marijuana in states.

Second Amendment Rights for Virginia Medical Marijuana Cardholders

While no direct laws address this scenario for marijuana cardholders in Virginia, several factors suggest support for preserving Second Amendment rights when using therapeutic cannabis for approved conditions and symptoms.

1. Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment Protects State Laws

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, established in 2014, prohibits using federal funds to enforce marijuana laws in states with their own regulations. This provision partially shields businesses and individuals acting within state law parameters from federal prosecution. It acknowledges states’ freedom to define their marijuana laws and enforcement.

2. Virginia’s Firearm Purchase Eligibility Test and Medical Marijuana

Virginia’s Firearm Purchase Eligibility Test contains 21 questions. The only question regarding marijuana reads: “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 or unlawful user based on a conviction for controlled substance use or possession within the past year or a drug test confirming unauthorized controlled substance use within the past year. This wording seems to intentionally accommodate medical marijuana users to answer “no” unless they failed a recent drug test or were convicted of a related offense within the past year.

3. Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Registry

In July 2022, the State of Virginia removed the requirement for patients to register with the Board of Pharmacy. Before that date, it was mandatory to register before being granted access to dispensaries. However, Virginia’s medical marijuana registry isn’t shared with the federal government. In fact, no state with medical marijuana registration shares this data federally. Consequently, this information won’t surface in federal background checks. Although Virginia mandates a criminal history check when purchasing a firearm, its purpose is to identify active warrants, protective orders, or convictions indicating a higher risk of gun-related violence. Gun registration is solely required for machine guns.

Future Clarity for Gun and Marijuana Laws

Unfortunately, clarity regarding gun ownership and medical marijuana in Virginia seems unlikely before federal marijuana declassification occurs. Missouri lawmakers have attempted to amend existing medical marijuana laws to safeguard Second Amendment rights. Yet, opponents argue that legally using marijuana hasn’t caused gun ownership issues at the federal level. Nonetheless, gun-related prosecution intensifies when marijuana is involved, regardless of legal firearm purchase.

Preserving Second Amendment Rights as a Medical Marijuana User

To safeguard your rights as a gun-owning medical marijuana user, adhere to Virginia’s laws. This involves ensuring your firearms comply with state regulations and obtaining a Virginia medical marijuana card if you intend to possess and use medical marijuana.