Back in 2021, when Democrats still had a tenuous grip on both the legislative and executive branches of government, lawmakers approved a bill allowing Virginians to legally grow and possess marijuana for personal use. Retail sales are still prohibited, but there’s a thriving gray market that’s sprung up over the past few years and enforcement has been spotty at best. Even state senators have been selling edibles containing delta-9 THC at retail locations and getting away with it, in large part because many prosecutors have simply given up on enforcing state law or are choosing to prioritize crimes involving harder drugs like fentanyl and other opioids.
While it may be legal to partake in Virginia under state law, it remains a criminal offense at the federal level, and as most gun owners know, when you fill out a Form 4473 before undergoing a background check you’re required to say whether or not you’re an unlawful user of drugs. The constitutionality of that provision has been questioned by several federal courts, but it remains in place for the time being, and one Virginia gun store owner is warning customers that they’ll be turned away if they show up smelling like they just spent several hours locked in a room with Seth Rogan and Snoop Dogg.
Have you noticed the smell of marijuana out in public more? So has the owner of Bob’s Gun Shop Steve Dowdy in Norfolk, and he said it’s a problem inside his store.
According to Dowdy, too many people coming in to buy a gun smell like marijuana.
“I would say on a normal business day, we’re probably seeing it once a day,” said Dowdy.
He said store personnel have always been on the lookout for people who appear to have been drinking alcohol, but said those cases are rare. He never thought shoppers who smell like marijuana would be a problem and said that too often, they try to buy a gun or use the firing range.
“It’s a crime they could be charged for. Obviously, there needs to be someone here to enforce it. But yeah, it’s definitely a crime,” said Dowdy.
One that Hunter Biden may be able to get away with, but could still ensnare ordinary gun owners. The DOJ is still prosecuting people
for lying on the Form 4473, and anyone who shows up at Dowdy’s gun store or any other firearms retailer in Virginia under the influence of marijuana could wind up facing federal charges as a result.
I’m a supporter of both the Second Amendment and decriminalizing marijuana, but it’s still disturbing to hear that people are showing up with a distinct odor of the devil’s lettuce on them hoping to get their hands on a gun. As federal courts have suggested, it may not be constitutional to ban marijuana users from owning a gun, but laws banning them from using a gun while they’re high would likely withstand constitutional muster given that ordinances banning the handling of firearms while drunk have been around since the Founding. Under any reading of the Second Amendment, it’s highly unlikely that the courts would agree you have the right to purchase, rent, or discharge a firearm (except perhaps in self-defense) while you’re stoned off your gourd.
Still, I’d caution both Republicans and Democrats from trying to make too much out of this, or to engage in legislative overreach in response. There were 14,000 DUI convictions
in Virginia in 2020, along with at least 272 motor vehicle fatalities involving drunk drivers, but no one in the state legislature has suggested banning either automobiles or liquor as a response. Republicans may look at Dowdy’s anecdotes and see a compelling reason to re-criminalize marijuana possession while Democrats might be more inclined to see his comments as a reason to enact more gun control laws aimed at peaceable gun owners, but I’d much rather educate Virginians on both the current laws in place as well as why it’s just a bad idea to handle (or try to purchase) a gun while high as a kite. That might not be able to eradicate this particular form of dumbassery completely, but neither would going backwards on our Second Amendment rights or decriminalization. The National Shooting Sports Foundation already has the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign to combat straw purchases. Maybe its time to roll out the “Don’t Puff Puff Before You Pew Pew” PSAs in states where cannabis has been decriminalized?