The Smoking Gun: Can Medical Cannabis Patients Legally Purchase Firearms?

If you’re a medical cannabis patient who wants to exercise your Second Amendment rights, bad news—the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently backed up Congress by ruling that a federal ban on the sale of guns to medical cannabis card holders doesn’t violate any constitutional rights. This ruling came in the case of S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada resident who was prevented from purchasing a gun in 2011 after she obtained a medical cannabis card.

Interestingly enough, Wilson has stated that she got her medical cannabis card in support of legalization of cannabis and that she doesn’t actually use it herself—having the card that allows her to legally obtain cannabis is enough cause for concern, according to the federal government. The court actually concluded that it was “reasonable for federal regulators to assume a medical marijuana card holder was more likely to use the drug.” While I understand the logic that an individual who goes out of their way to get a medical cannabis card is certainly more likely to use cannabis than someone who doesn’t have their card, I don’t think simply having a card should disqualify an individual from legally purchasing a gun if they want to.

Currently, federal law “prohibits gun purchases by an unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance.” This includes cannabis. When asked to clarify their intent in 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stated that “the law applies to marijuana users regardless of whether [their] State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.” What’s their reasoning behind this ban? That people who use cannabis are “more prone to violence” and that cannabis “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.” They cite studies used in the 2014 case United States v. Carter that suggest that there is a “significant link between drug use, including marijuana use, and violence.” Think that this reasoning sounds shaky and poorly researched at best? Apparently that doesn’t matter: “Government need not prove a causal link between drug use and violence to block firearms purchases by drug users. A simple link between drug use and violence, regardless of which way the causality runs, is grounds enough,” stated the 4th Circuit.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up what other things could disqualify a person from being able to legally purchase a gun in the state of California. Federal law 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) states that you cannot purchase a gun if you have been convicted of the following: (1) Any crime punishable by one year in prison or more, (2) Any violent offense (bans from misdemeanors may be temporary) or (3) Misdemeanors related to assault, intimidation, stalking, domestic violence or firearms (these bans can be permanent or temporary). There are also situations in which court orders or probation conditions will include a firearm ban. Other reasons for ineligibility include if you’ve been declared mentally incompetent or mentally ill by a court, are under conservatorship due to excessive use of alcohol, have been dishonorably discharged from the military or have been reported by a psychotherapist for threats against yourself or others. Many of those disqualifying conditions make perfect sense—an individual who has a recorded history of violence shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun. Having a medical cannabis card is not the same thing as a recorded history of violence. Period. Go ahead and ban individuals who have committed violent acts from purchasing guns. If the court’s issue is with the supposed “violence that the use of marijuana causes”, shouldn’t the ban against perpetrators of violent crimes be sufficient? If an individual who has a medical cannabis card is charged with a violent crime, then they’re made ineligible. It seems to me that violence isn’t really the whole issue, it’s a continued negative stigma surrounding the use of cannabis. Despite our best efforts as patients to follow the rules and obtain cannabis as legally as possible, we are now being shamed for identifying ourselves by the very government that told us to identify as medical cannabis patients in the first place. Hopefully as cannabis continues to gain national acceptance and more studies are conducted, archaic and misguided legislation like this will cease to exist.

SOURCES
Why medical marijuana patients can’t buy guns
Federal court upholds ban on gun sales to medical marijuana card holders
Gun Ownership, the Second Amendment, & Medical Marijuana Growers and Users
How to Buy Firearms in California

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