Gun Ownership and Medical Marijuana in West Virginia
Legal access to medical marijuana has changed the lives of many West Virginia residents who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, cancer, and other qualifying conditions. While many are celebrating the fact that they are finally able to get relief, they may not have considered how having a medical marijuana card may affect their other rights, including the right to own and purchase firearms.
The good news is that legislators in most states—West Virginia included—intend to protect their constituents, who have put their trust into the medical marijuana program which generates tax revenue supporting important community, safety, and social programs. State officials want residents to feel confident in their state-sanctioned use of medical marijuana, and to know that they don’t have to give up their guns just because they are being forthright about seeking treatment.
Unfortunately, federal law is still behind when it comes to recognizing the medicinal value of cannabis. The divergence between state and federal laws complicates the issue of gun rights for those intending to purchase firearms, or keep any guns they currently own while being a West Virginia medical marijuana cardholder.
Our mission is to keep you informed with the most recent info on the state medical marijuana program. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 877-303-8424.
Many Gun-Owners in WV Probably Already Have a Medical Marijuana Card
As of June 9, 2022, more than 8,000 West Virginia residents have registered with the Department of Health and Human Resources to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program, and as more state dispensaries open their doors, that number is expected to rise exponentially.
While 8,000 may not seem like an enormous number compared to other states, it is important to know that West Virginia dispensaries have been open for less than a year. What’s most significant is the number of gun-owners in West Virginia - a full 58.5 percent of West Virginia residents own a gun. That means that out of 8,000 medical marijuana patients, the odds are that about 4,600 of those medical marijuana patients own firearms.
Considering the way that West Virginians love their freedom, their guns, and their newly legalized cannabis, we would not be surprised to find a great deal of overlap between the gun-owners and West Virginia medical marijuana card-holders. And considering that the West Virginia medical marijuana dispensaries have been open since last November, it is probable that patients have made new firearms purchases while they also had a medical marijuana card.
Cannabis and Guns: The Letter of the (Federal) Law
The Federal Position on Cannabis
State cannabis laws differ from those on the federal level. It is crucial to note that the Federal Government does not recognize any situation in which marijuana should be considered legal. Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, it has no known medical applications and a high potential for abuse.
The federal policy classifying cannabis this way was established in 1970 - that’s more than 50 years ago. The amount of studies that have shown the medicinal value of marijuana in the decades since is staggering. However, Washington is still promoting this antiquated classification.
Since then, states all over the US have exercised their independent rights, enacting the will of the people to legalize cannabis to varying degrees, recognizing its therapeutic uses, its relative safety, and its potential to bring in much-needed tax revenue.
Federal resources for enforcing marijuana prohibition are limited and it is generally left up to the state to manage its own drug policing policies. This means that it is very difficult to enforce federal laws in states where cannabis is legal.
In 2013, the Obama administration announced it would roll out a new, relaxed approach to enforcement in states with new marijuana provisions, focusing instead on the parts of the marijuana black market that could be damaging to communities. This shifted the federal focus to issues like distribution to minors, marijuana revenue that funded gangs, and “violence and firearm use in growing or distributing marijuana.”
Soon after, the Trump administration reversed this policy, but it was largely symbolic. There are still limited resources to pursue federal marijuana law enforcement, especially in states that refuse to cooperate.
The Federal Position on Guns and Controlled Substances
Anyone who illegally consumes a controlled substance is federally prohibited from possessing a firearm. The Application for a Federal Firearms License (a form that is required for any purchase at a federally-licensed dealership) reads like this:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
WARNING: The use of possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal Law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
Lying on this form can incur some pretty hefty penalties, including up to 10 years in a prison and some substantial fines.
Here’s something to consider: If your dentist prescribes you a narcotic, such as Vicodin for tooth pain, and you have a few left over that you decide to use to treat your back pain, you are technically breaking the law. However, it’s easier to fly under the radar for popping a few Vicodin, because there isn’t a registry for people who use pain pills.
What Do Federal Cannabis and Gun Laws Mean for Medical Marijuana Cardholders in West Virginia?
First of all, if you currently have a marijuana card, you can rest assured with the knowledge that you are using marijuana within the limits of the state law. The Federal Government is more interested in using its resources to enforce its laws with large-scale, societally-damaging operations than with residents who use cannabis to treat his chronic pain.
If you are currently a marijuana cardholder and a gun-owner, you may not have much to worry about. In 2017, the Honolulu Police Chief tried asking people to turn in their guns after getting approved for medical marijuana in Hawaii, but that campaign came to a quick end.
The primary issue with this is the fact that most medical marijuana programs require your information be kept private and inaccessible to any person or agency not involved in carrying out program rules. It appears that the police departments involved in sending letters to marijuana cardholders who owned guns should not have been accessing the information in the first place.
You Are Not Required to Register Your Guns in West Virginia
The state of West Virginia does not require you to register your guns, even if you plan to carry them around with you. Local ordinances may have different regulations, but there is no state law that requires a license.
This means that as long as you do not make a purchase at a federally-licensed dealership, no one will even know that you own a gun.
West Virginia Legislators Have Not Made Second Amendment Protections for Marijuana Cardholders a Legislative Priority
The basic rule is that owning a firearm while also being a medical marijuana patient does technically mean that you are breaking the law. You do so at your own risk, especially if you lie on a federal form. The bigger concern is wondering what your legislators are doing for you.
At the moment, many Virginia politicians, such as Mike Stuart, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, are saying you have to choose one - firearms or medical marijuana. If you are a cannabis patient in West Virginia, there has never been a better time than now to call your local lawmakers and state that you want them to stand-up for your constitutional rights.
You Are at Risk for Larger Problems if You Use Marijuana Illegally and Own Guns
Considering the increased acceptance of legal marijuana use across the nation, having a marijuana card and a gun is less likely to get you into the kind of trouble you could be in if you own guns and consume cannabis illegally.
The 1968 Gun Control Act targeted people who were dealing illegal drugs, but abuse of this law has been widespread. Police officers have been notorious for searching out guns in homes where they found illegal cannabis. It can lead to a much stiffer sentence even if the two aren’t connected in any way.
However, a medical marijuana card *could potentially provide a level of protection as long as Federal Law Enforcement Officers are not involved.
Everyone Deserves Relief
If you are ready to experience the natural relief that cannabis provides, you’ll need your West Virginia medical marijuana card. Our team of compassionate cannabis doctors are ready to help you get your card. They will help you navigate every step of the process. West Virginia’s program offers medical marijuana to patients with certain conditions and even offers an online application process! That’s right- you can even get your medical marijuana card online from the comfort of your own home with West Virginia Marijuana Card!
To get your medical marijuana card online in West Virginia, simply schedule your medical marijuana evaluation appointment today and get access to legal marijuana products available at dispensaries!
Being a West Virginia medical marijuana patient allows you the freedom to take your medication the right way for you. We’re dedicated to helping patients every step of the way! Feel free to give us a call at 877-303-8424 and we can answer your questions about getting a medical marijuana card in West Virginia.
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
West Virginia Marijuana Card’s mission is to help everyone achieve
wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana.
Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for
our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at 877-303-8424, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out West Virginia Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in West Virginia.