Why Can’t Medical Marijuana Consumers Legally Own Firearms?

By Joan Eberhardt

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that legal medical marijuana users cannot legally buy a gun in August 2016.

In a 3-0 ruling, the court upheld that a federal law preventing medical marijuana users from buying a firearm did not violate the Second Amendment because marijuana has been linked to “irrational or unpredictable behavior.” S. Rowan Wilson sought to obtain a firearm for self-defense but was denied when the owner recognized her as a medical marijuana cardholder. Wilson said she does not even consume cannabis but obtained a card as a show of support for Nevada’s medical marijuana program. Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to any unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has been firm on that.

Chaz Rainey, Wilson’s attorney, said they intend to appeal the ruling. “We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no-fly list your constitutional right is still protected,” Rainey said he wants to see the law applied more consistently in regard to gun rights.

In January the ATF, in fact, updated its language to make clear that, even in states where legal marijuana is available, because marijuana is still illegal at a federal level the sale of firearms to marijuana users remains illegal. The updated language on the federal gun purchase form reads: “Warning: The use or 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.”

Second Amendment advocates say this law denies medical marijuana users their right to bear arms. Marijuana users who lie about their use to obtain a firearm, whether legal or not, or medical or not, could face federal charges. Lying on a federal gun purchase form is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. A legal marijuana user who also wishes to exercise her Second Amendment rights is in a tough spot. Surprisingly, the nation’s largest firearms lobby, the National Rifle Association has been mum on the topic.

State-by-state the laws can vary. California does not prohibit the sale of firearms to marijuana users, but using a gun in connection with offenses involving illegal drug activity can lead to heavier charges. In Michigan, someone wishing to obtain a firearm must first legally terminate their medical marijuana card. Arizona does not prohibit drug users or addicts from possessing firearms. Nevada does not intend to prosecute any legal medical marijuana users for any drug related offenses, as long as no other crimes have occurred. Illinois does not ban medical marijuana users from possessing a firearm. Until the law can be applied more evenly, they are likely to remain disjointed. While you may not be prosecuted by a state for possessing a firearm and using marijuana, at a federal level you would be committing a felony.

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