Marijuana Patients Can’t Own a Gun
Christopher Morales is a California Criminal Defense Attorney well versed in gun law. He believes that the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits anyone who uses cannabis medically from owning a gun. Unfortunately for the cannabis consuming public, some state courts agree.
The exact wording on the federal law is vague and misleading because it says “unlawful user or anyone using a federally restricted substance”. Cannabis is a federally restricted substance but many states consider medical use as lawful. But gun ownership is federally protected but considered a state controlled matter. So courts had to decide if following state laws protected patients from the federal clause preventing ownership of firearms.
The Gun Control Act
The Gun Control act is also full of outdated language. There is ample evidence of outdated language contained within the 1968 document. Evidence including the claim that marijuana is addictive. Modern research has proven that cannabis creates no chemical addiction or dependency. This discrepancy and others like it have caused issues in more than one state.
A Nevada medical marijuana patient named S. Rowan Wilson filed a lawsuit in 2011 challenging the federal statute against gun ownership. Wilson attempted to purchase a gun and was denied because she has a medical card. Unwilling to give up her 2nd amendment right without a fight, she lawyered up.
Wilson’s case went all the way up to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Eventually, she lost her fight. Chief District Judge Gloria Navarro was the one who made the final ruling against Wilson. Judge Gloria says that denying the sale of guns to a marijuana patient does not violate the Second Amendment.
States Decide Gun Laws
When it comes to gun purchases, every state is different. Some states require background checks. While other states call in to check a criminal record. If Wilson went to the state of Georgia, she could have easily purchased a gun at a flea market. But that’s not the point. Wilson wanted to buy a gun in her own hometown regardless of her legal marijuana status.
It is strange how unevenly rules are applied across populations. Patients using prescription opioids are allowed to own a gun when opioids are on the list of federally controlled substances. Yet medical marijuana patients are unable to obtain personal protection. And this poses a special threat to patients who also own or operate dispensaries.
People employed in the cannabis field already can’t use banking systems to store money. Having all that cash on hand makes them a target for a whole list of nefarious people. Add to that the knowledge that they can’t legally defend themselves and trouble is almost guaranteed to ensue.
The Gun Show Loophole
According to federal law, all licensed firearm dealers must perform background checks on those seeking a purchase of a gun. But there is an escape clause called the Gun Show Loophole. At gun shows there are unlicensed firearms dealers, and they are not required to perform background checks. About 22% of all firearm sales are done by these unlicensed sellers.
Federally, the government is uninterested in closing the loophole. Federal agents routinely use it to funnel arms and ammunition to drug cartels and kinpins. After the documents regarding the federal Fast and Furious program became public, their reluctance began to make sense to the broader public. Luckily, several states have moved to stop such practices.
11 states have closed the loophole and require background checks at the point of sale. The 11 states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhodes Island and Washington. Eight other states require a background check and a permit for private purchasers. Those eight states are: Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey and North Carolina.
None of the listed states ban ownership by medical marijuana patients or recreational users. But, possessing a firearm will likely only add fuel to the fire if charged with large-scale cultivation. Especially if the government is looking to make an example of you.
The Bottom Line
When filling out the Firearms Transaction Record during the purchase of a gun, there is a question. A Ninth Circuit Court ruling amended the question about cannabis use. The new language puts patients into a catch-22.
Originally, the text read “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” The new version includes a nifty little addition to clarify that they mean medical patients. It 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.”
What this says is that medical users are not allowed to own a gun because they are using a substance that is under the federal control substance list. Marijuana is federally illegal and therefore gun ownership while using it is federally illegal. Alcohol is not federally illegal, just restricted. That is why people shoot themselves every year while drinking and handling guns.
I Want My Attorney
When it comes to buying a gun, it is up to the seller to perform their due diligence by asking whether or not the purchaser is a cannabis user and to perform a background check. If the medical marijuana user says ‘yes’ then technically they must be denied the purchase of a gun. If they say ‘no’ and get caught for lying, they can face felony charges.
When it comes to cooperating with law enforcement, it becomes a tricky situation. According to Morales, a medical marijuana user should never disclose to police if they have drugs or guns in the vehicle. He maintains that they are under no obligation to disclose that information. When confronted with these questions, patients need to say the four magic words ‘I want my attorney’.
Recent evidence of police brutality and blatant corruption in the penal system can make asking for a lawyer scary. Police are not required to be direct, honest or limit their force. they can invade your home, kill your animals, confiscate your property and shoot you dead if they feel threatened. Don’t resist, don’t lie and don’t answer any questions without YOUR lawyer.