Medical Marijuana and Guns (Still) Don’t Mix…For Now
A few weeks back, we discussed the issues Maryland faced now that it legalized medical marijuana – specifically, gun ownership. As most of you know by now, federal law bars federal firearm licensee’s from selling firearms to persons who utilize medical marijuana. Under the Federal Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. 922(d)(3), it is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802). Since cannabis is still a Schedule I substance under federal law, a federal firearm licensee is barred from selling a firearm to a medical marijuana user. In fact, both federal form 4473 and state form 77R specifically state that medical marijuana users may not purchase firearms.
As noted in our last post, the Maryland State Police inquire of every individual who attempts to purchase a firearm whether they are a medical marijuana user. If a person answers in the affirmative, they are barred from purchasing a gun. Individuals who provide false information or fail to identify that they are a medical marijuana user are in violation of federal statute, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. Now, other states are now running into similar problems.
Just last month, Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment Two by nearly 66%. The amendment, known as New Approach Missouri allows doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients with serious illnesses. State lawmakers included a statement within the amendment that medical cannabis patients should have the same rights as other law-abiding citizens, i.e. the right to both possess and purchase a firearm. Unfortunately, federal law still trumps state law in this instance. As such, whether you cross state lines or not, it would be a violation of federal law for you to be in possession of the gun if you are a user of marijuana.
In Pennsylvania, a doctor who personally uses medical cannabis to treat PTSD was recently denied the ability to purchase a firearm because he responded affirmatively when asked by the firearm seller if he utilized medical cannabis. In response, he brought suit against the United States government. Dr. Matthew Roman filed suit in federal district court in Philadelphia arguing that 18 U.S.C. §§922(d)(3) and 922(g)(3) as well as 27 C.F.R. §478.11 are unconstitutional in preventing lawful medical cannabis users from possessing firearms.
These challenges may be the turning or tipping point in pushing the federal government towards de-scheduling cannabis within the Controlled Substances Act. With 33 states having now legalized cannabis in some way, shape or form, it is only a matter of time before the federal government must follow the states’ leads in their approach to cannabis regulation. We’ll keep you posted as to how this case and any others progress through the courts.