August 28, 2023 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 7 Minutes
The relationship between medical cannabis and gun rights is often questioned. Namely, can you own a gun with a medical cannabis card? Does being a medical cannabis patient affect the individual’s second amendment right to bear arms?
Simply put, the answer is no. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, it is still considered a Schedule 1 drug. Therefore, those with their medical marijuana cards are thought to be using a controlled substance, and, as a result, the federal law bars them from purchasing firearms.
This article details more about being a gun owner as a medical cannabis user and how these laws may differ state by state. However, nothing in this article should stand as legal advice: for formal questions about medical cannabis and gun ownership in your state, we recommend consulting with a lawyer.
Medical Cannabis and Gun Rights: What Does the Law Say?
The legislation about firearm possession and medical marijuana extends back several decades. The Gun Control Act of 1968 explicitly bars “unlawful users” of controlled substances or those who are addicted to these substances from owning firearms or ammunition.
The federal government hold a distinct standpoint on the relationship between medical marijuana use and firearm ownership. According to the FDA, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug or controlled substance according to the Controlled Substances Act, indicating its purported lack of medical utility, high potential for abuse, and, as per this classification, both its possession and use are deemed illegal. As a user of a controlled substance under federal law, medical cannabis patients cannot technically have a gun license.
In 2011, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) distributed an open letter to all licensed firearms vendors clarifying that individuals holding a medical cannabis card are ineligible to purchase firearms from licensed dealers. A legal challenge to this prohibition surfaced in Wilson vs. Lynch when a card-carrying patient contested the law. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that the prohibition of firearm sales to medical marijuana users did not infringe upon their Second Amendment rights.
It’s essential to note that federal law holds authority over state law, respective of any state-level legislation concerning gun ownership and medical marijuana.
U.S. District Judge Considers Weapons Charge Against MMJ Patient Unconstitutional
Supplementing this 2011 ruling, certain states have enacted their own statutes for their marijuana laws. For instance, in Oregon, a recent verdict granted concealed carry licenses to medical marijuana firearm owners. Conversely, in Florida, it was recently determined that a medical marijuana patient cannot lawfully acquire a firearm.
Additionally, some require background checks, whereas others, like Georgia, do not require such checks.
Recently, in Oklahoma, the question of gun ownership by a medical cannabis patient came into question. The case ended up in federal court, where U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick sided in favor of the people calling the charges against a medical cannabis patient unconstitutional. Reuters reported that:
“U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump in Oklahoma City, on Friday dismissed an indictment against a man charged in August with violating that ban, saying it infringed his right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.” Judge Wyrick also went on to say, “That while the government can protect the public from dangerous people possessing guns, it could not argue Jared Harrison’s “mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm.”
Giffords.org answers the question, “What disqualifies you from owning a gun in the U.S.?” Their answer is, “Under federal law, a person is generally prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms if, among other things, they have been convicted of certain crimes or become subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition.”
Many states like Oklahoma are standing up for the rights of medical cannabis patients. In August 2023, the Journal Record cited an Oklahoma state law saying, “A medical marijuana patient or caregiver licensee shall not be denied the right to own, purchase or possess a firearm, ammunition, or firearm accessories based solely on his or her status as a medical marijuana patient or caregiver licensee.” We’re eager to see what the future holds for the legalization of medical cannabis at the federal level—and what that means for American gun purchasers who desire to use medicinal cannabis.
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Can I Own a Gun if I Have My Medical Cannabis Card?
Essentially, the answer to this question is no. Even if you’re in a state where cannabis is legal for medical or recreational use, having a medical marijuana card prohibits you from legally bearing a firearm, even if you have licenses for both.
If you already own a gun, having a medical cannabis card cancels out any firearm license you might have. This creates a difficult situation for many individuals, and how it’s enforced depends on the circumstances.
The Gun Control Act’s language is clear, but the changing opinions about cannabis and its evolving legality have made enforcing it nearly impossible.
Initially, the law aimed to give harsher sentences to criminals carrying firearms in connection with drugs. However, now, for instance, armed security guards are often required to protect cannabis dispensaries to ensure safety during transportation and purchases. This puts these guards in violation of the law just by being around cannabis. Interestingly, many states don’t enforce laws to safeguard their cannabis industries.
Moreover, the ATF technically allows medical cannabis users to have guns at home if their spouse doesn’t use cannabis. According to law enforcement, the spouse must keep the firearm locked away to prevent the medical marijuana cardholder from accessing it.
Things get even more complicated if you apply for a medical marijuana card and own a handgun. You can’t buy more firearms, and there’s no clear advice on what to do with the gun you already have. Giving it up could potentially lead to legal action against you.
Can I Apply For a Gun License When My Medical Card Expires?
Yes, you can apply for a gun license when your medical cannabis card expires.
You just need to fill out the required forms includin the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Form 4473 and fulfill the additional requirements needed to purchase a gun from a federally licensed dealer according to your state.
In addition to your identification details, question 21(e) on Form 4473 asks if you are “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” Because it has not been legalized on the federal level, if you use medical cannabis, you are considered an unlawful user of a controlled substance, even if you have a medical card.
People become medical cannabis patients for many different reasons, but one is not to have their constitutional rights stripped from them. The main reason people choose to become medical cannabis patients is for a chance at a higher quality of life—a life with increased mobility, more energy, reduced pain, and more.
Cannabis is known to help relieve the symptoms of chronic pain, fatigue, inflammation, stress, anxiety, depression, arthritis, nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, and more. Individuals living with life-altering medical conditions such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, ALS, cancer, and other serious diseases often find great relief through cannabinoid therapies.
Medical cannabis patients aren’t criminals, and it’s high time our elected representatives realize this. People deserve the right to choose cannabis as a medicinal therapy without having to sacrifice fundamental rights. Do you think medical cannabis patients should be unable to own a gun? Or do you think this policy should be left in the past? Let us know in the comments!
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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