Virginia gun shop owner says too many customers reek of marijuana: 'It's definitely a crime'

Posted at 3:33 PM, May 01, 2023

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — As Virginia relaxed state marijuana laws, perhaps you've more often noticed the smell of marijuana while out in public.

Steve Dowdy, the owner of Bob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk, said he has and it has become a problem inside his gun store.

According to Dowdy, too many people who smell like marijuana have come into his shop to buy a gun.

“I would say, on a normal business day, we’re probably seeing it once a day,” Dowdy, who has worked in the shop for more than 30 years, said.

dowdy bob's gun shop
Steve Dowdy, the owner of Bob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk, says too many people who come in to buy a gun smell like marijuana.

He said workers have always been on the lookout for people who appear to have been drinking alcohol but called those cases rare.

He never thought shoppers who smelled 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.

Norfolk-based WTKR looked up the federal code, which states that it’s unlawful to sell a gun to anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, which includes marijuana.

Dowdy said it can be tricky to solely rely on his sense of smell to discern which shoppers may be under the influence of marijuana.

“You rely on olfactory senses to figure out if somebody’s using or not," he said.

Dowdy said he is part of a network of gun shop owners who have also expressed the same problem. He said some even hang signs on the door, warning people they can’t buy a gun if they smell like marijuana. He’s even considered hanging one on the door himself.

bob's gun shop

“Letting people know it might be legal in the state but federally it’s still illegal,” said Dowdy.

James Parker is a customer and praised Dowdy for speaking out about the issue. He said people need to be more responsible.

Dowdy said says if they smell it, they will refuse the sale.

“You have to be diplomatic and we just err on the side of caution,” he said.

When people are confronted, he said they have different reactions, but he’s speaking out in an effort to educate the public and help them understand the rules when purchasing a firearm in Virginia.

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