With Minnesota recently becoming the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis, those authorized to sell firearms in the state received a public notice from the ATF. The St. Paul Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sent out this release to reiterate the fact that anybody who utilizes cannabis, be it for recreation or medical purposes, even in states that have legalized its use, is not able to own a firearm under federal law.
This notice likely comes as the recently passed law in Minnesota bans sheriffs from denying someone a permit to carry a gun based solely on their use of recreational cannabis or enrollment in the medical cannabis program in the state.
The Details and Motive for the Release
The release states that “marijuana is listed in the controlled substances act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes even if such use is sanctioned by state law.” This means that even in states that have legalized cannabis, it is illegal for those who utilize it to possess a firearm. This is because federal law 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(3) “prohibits any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition. ”
Under the Obama Administration, guidance was provided stating that the Department of Justice would not step in to interfere within the states that have legalized cannabis so long as it did not directly interfere with their law enforcement responsibilities. Unfortunately, this was rescinded by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions under President Trump’s administration. While, for the most part, the federal government has not interfered with the legalization of cannabis in states across the country, the fact that the ATF sent out this notice is cause for concern to some.
Is There a Cause for Concern for Patients and Consumers of Cannabis?
One such individual is Rob Doar, who is the vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owner’s Caucus. As a second amendment advocate, he helped push for the inclusion of gun rights for medical cannabis patients within the language of the Minnesota cannabis bill that was signed into law. Doar told CBS News:
“I think if [the ATF agents] weren’t planning on enforcing it, they may have just let it go and it would kind of be a wink-wink, nudge-nudge that yes it’s illegal, but much like other federal cannabis prohibitions, we’re not going to be enforcing it. The fact that they sent out the notice is cause for some raised eyebrows.”
As Doar said, this public notice being issued raises a lot of eyebrows regarding the intentions of the ATF when it comes to medical patients and recreational consumers of cannabis. Though it is high time for the federal government to end its draconian prohibition on cannabis, it is likely not to happen any time soon, which has many wanting guidance from Congress or executive action from the Biden administration.
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What About Alcohol Consumers and Potential Violent Offenders?
You’re probably asking yourself: What about the people who drink? Why is it they can possess a firearm and those utilizing cannabis medically cannot? While there isn’t a law banning the possession of a firearm if you consume alcohol, there are laws that prohibit you from possessing firearms while under the intoxication of alcohol.
Unfortunately, when you are intoxicated from alcohol, it is a given that your judgment is hindered, and often times these laws go unfollowed, despite the evident risks involved. Additionally, no laws prevent even those with violence-related restraining orders in place from obtaining or possessing a firearm.
Oklahoma Is One State That Stands Behind Gun Rights for MMJ Patients
According to Greenspoon Marder LLP, a full-service law firm, “On February 3, 2023, a federal judge in the Western District of Oklahoma issued an order finding the prohibition against gun ownership by medical marijuana users to be unconstitutional. In the 54-page order, Judge Patrick R. Wyrick agreed with Defendant Jared Michael Harrison’s argument that the plain language of the Second Amendment protects his ability to possess a firearm, and the government could not prove that the restriction is consistent with the nation’s ‘historical tradition of firearm regulation.'”
This decision was widely based on the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which changed the conversation regarding the gun rights of medical cannabis patients, concluding that the government must “affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms” before they can legally restrict gun ownership. This is despite the fact that the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act also references the federal law pertaining to the legality of possessing and owning a firearm as a consumer of a federally illegal substance.
What Does the Future of Gun Rights for Cannabis Consumers and Patients Look Like?
Unfortunately, until the laws surrounding cannabis change at the federal level or federal lawmakers force laws that remove the smokescreen between federal and state laws, it will likely remain illegal at the federal level for both medical cannabis patients and consumers to own or possess a gun.
Hopefully, with nearly half of the states in the United States of America having legalized recreational cannabis for adults over the age of 21, we will start to see more movement at the federal level regarding cannabis legalization and all that it entails. Until then, it is best not to apply for a gun or possess one if you consume cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. While the ATF hasn’t come knocking down the doors of medical cannabis patients to take their guns as of yet, it doesn’t mean they won’t.
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