In today’s day and age where cannabis is largely accepted by the masses, it’s kind of hard to believe that some people still do not have legal access to it. Marijuana is now legal (at the time of writing) in 33 of 50 states, but questions still remain as to who exactly “qualifies” for it. In fact, the question of ‘can I get medical marijuana if I have a felony’ has been a fairly consistent inquiry that we get here at the site.
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t quite as cut and dry as you’re probably hoping it would be. The good news, however, is that yes – in most states you can indeed get approved for medical marijuana even if you’ve priorly been convicted of a felony offense.
Of course, there are always caveats. In this article, we discuss the situation as thoroughly as possible, and along with answering some other “legal” inquiries along the way (bear in mind that we’re not lawyers here at MarijuanaBreak), we’ll talk in as much detail as possible about whether or not you can get medical marijuana if you’re a felon.
I Have a Felony… Can I Still Get Medical Cannabis?
If you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, you’ll know firsthand how much of a roadblock it can present in terms of accessing otherwise “normative” aspects of day-to-day life. Felons have a (much) harder time getting a job, re-immersing themselves in society, and in some instances, can even have their right to vote revoked.
Indeed, in states like Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, individuals convicted of certain felonies (namely rape and murder) will lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives. Other states aren’t quite as strict (you can vote even while behind bars in Vermont and Maine), but the bottom line is that a felony conviction will have immediate and long-lasting repercussions on your everyday life.
Interestingly enough, being able to obtain medical marijuana if you have a felony will largely depend on what state you’re trying to get approved in. Much in the same way as voting restrictions, the specific laws and regulations will vary from state to state.
As Christopher Uggen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota puts it, “state disparities are really astounding … It is definitely confusing at election time, and many former felons are risk-averse — they may not vote if they are afraid of getting a felony conviction for illegal voting.”
In other words, to answer the question simply enough, your ability to apply for (and get approved for) medical marijuana with a felony will vary depending on where exactly in the U.S. you are.
Interesting Facts About Felonies and Medical Marijuana Use in the U.S.
Amazingly (or perhaps maybe not so much), it has been estimated that roughly eight out of every 100 Americans has some sort of felony conviction on their record. To put it another way, that’s about 8% of the U.S. adult population.
Perhaps even more astoundingly, another recent estimation has claimed that 33% of the African-American male population has been convicted of a prior felony. No matter how you look at it, that is a decent chunk of the American population that would (potentially) be denied access to medical marijuana for having a felony.
Fortunately, most states are not so strict (and are indeed rather lenient) in terms of who can actually apply for – and qualify for – legal medicinal cannabis. The state of Illinois has typically not allowed access to medical cannabis for convicted felons, but that may be changing in the years to come.
In fact, to our knowledge, Illinois was the only U.S. state that explicitly stated felons were not eligible to apply for an MMJ card. (To clarify, the declaration of “to our knowledge” is a disclaimer of sorts maintaining that there may be other states with similar felony-based restrictions).
As you’ll see here shortly though, establishing a legal medical marijuana business with a prior felony conviction (or any cannabis-related business for that matter) is another thing altogether.
Can Felons Get Medical Marijuana? Most Likely No if They’re Trying to Open a Business…
Perhaps fairly enough, most states that offer legal medical marijuana programs do not allow prior convicted felons to be granted commercial business licenses — especially if their prior convictions were on drug or drug trafficking-related charges.
Robert Mayerson, CEO of a Massachusetts medical cannabis dispensary called Patriot Care, said in an article published by Forbes, “Permitting those who have demonstrated the interest and willingness to ignore state and federal drug laws sends the wrong signals to those who would participate in the legal, regulated [marijuana] industry.”
Indeed, according to that same article, there are many other U.S. states that have implemented similar restrictions to would-be cannabis business operators for having a prior felony conviction. By and large, these restrictions are believed to have been put in place in an effort to “legitimize the trade” and to help avoid medical cannabis products from a legal state, end up in an illegal one.
So What’s the Answer – Can You Get Medical Marijuana if You Have a Felony?
So simply put, our unofficial answer to the question of whether or not you can get medical marijuana if you have a felony is yes – in most states (except for Illinois) you should be able to.
Surprisingly, we were not able to find any other states that implemented explicit restrictions for medical cannabis applications who had prior felony convictions. Of course, this should by no means be taken as out-and-out fact; if you know of any other state where you cannot get medical cannabis with a felony, be sure to send us a message and let us know, or let the community know down in the comments section below.
Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that many states do not allow medical marijuana caregiver licenses to be granted to individuals who hold a felony on their criminal record. A caregiver is someone who is legally allowed to purchase, transport, deliver, and sometimes even grow medical marijuana for a qualified patient.
In other words, while most states do indeed allow convicted felons to apply for medical marijuana, they do not allow you to become a medical cannabis caregiver if you have a felony conviction.