It’s an American right, as per the 2nd Amendment, to own a firearm. Beyond self-protection, guns are an exciting form of recreation, sport, and collection. Almost anyone over the age of 18 can purchase a firearm.
Granted, there are laws in place restricting who can and can’t purchase a gun—and for good reason. These laws, however, can be murky to navigate.
One question many Americans ask is if there are laws regarding medical marijuana and guns? The answer is a surprising yes.
But these laws aren’t as straight-forward as you might think. Every state has different laws regarding both guns and medical marijuana. Medical marijuana, for example, isn’t legal in all 50 states.
If you use medical marijuana or are simply curious about medical marijuana and gun laws, there’s a lot to learn. Can you legally use both? Here’s what you need to know.
Table of Contents
- Gun Laws & Gun Restrictions
- Medical Marijuana Laws & Legality
- The Laws About Medical Marijuana and Guns
- The Effects of the ATF
- The Wilson vs. Lynch Case
- Issues with Enforcing Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws
- Owning Guns Before Using Medical Marijuana
- Can Recreational Marijuana Users Own Guns?
- Oregon’s Marijuana Laws and Gun Ownership
- The Future of Medical Marijuana and Guns
Gun Laws & Gun Restrictions
Not everyone over the age of 18 can purchase and own a firearm. Laws are in place to prohibit certain individuals from owning a gun primarily for their safety and the safety of others.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits people with certain conditions and histories from owning a gun. They include:
- Mental illness
- Violent history
- Criminal history
- Minors under age 18
- Use of drugs or other controlled substances
This act also prohibited the sale of ammunition and firearms from interstate shipments to private individuals. Gun dealers faced stricter requirements for record-keeping and licensing as a result of the act.
Medical Marijuana Laws & Legality
Both medicinal and recreational marijuana is legal in many states throughout the US. Some states legalized both while others legalized only medicinal. There are also several states that have not legalized any form of marijuana.
To use medicinal marijuana, you will need approval from your doctor and a medical marijuana card. If you’re a recreational user, you may purchase cannabis products from states where it’s legal.
The Laws About Medical Marijuana and Guns
When it comes to gun ownership and marijuana use, what are the laws? For most states, it’s illegal for medical marijuana patients to own a gun. But why?
Medical marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance and continues to be illegal at the federal level. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers Schedule 1 controlled substances as offering no or very little medicinal quality and having a high possibility for abuse.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits Americans from owning a gun if they’re using controlled substances. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) stated in 2011 that the Act of 1968 will continue regardless of state law and changing societal attitudes about marijuana.
The ATF also prevents those who have legally obtained a medical marijuana card from owning a gun. When you purchase a gun, you must fill out a Firearms Transaction Record from the ATF. Since medical marijuana is illegal at the federal level, the form considers marijuana an illegal substance regardless of your state’s laws.
Providing incorrect or untruthful information on this form is a form of perjury. If you’re caught lying, you can face a felony charge and up to 10 years in prison.
The ATF stated that holding a medical marijuana card is a reasonable cause to suspect someone of unlawfully using marijuana. If you currently use medical marijuana, it’s best to avoid guns.
However, many believe this act denies medical marijuana cardholders their gun rights.
The Effects of the ATF
Not only has this ruling left a lot of gray areas, but it also negatively affected Americans in 2 main ways.
Many people who could benefit from using medical marijuana have forgone getting a card. Those who do possess a legal medical marijuana card can’t own a gun for self-protection or for sport.
Current laws concerning medical marijuana and guns force people to choose between their health and personal protection.
Married medical marijuana users, however, may have a way of getting around this law. If their spouse has a clean record and doesn’t use or purchase marijuana, the spouse may purchase a gun. Spouses are able to buy rifles, handguns, and accessories, such as ammunition and a AR 15 handguard.
Anyone married to a medicinal marijuana user will need to lock the gun up in a cabinet. A medical marijuana cardholder can’t access or use a gun. While this situation isn’t ideal, a family can still have a way of keeping themselves safe.
The Wilson vs. Lynch Case
After the ATF shared its thoughts on the 1969 Gun Act in 2011, medical cardholder S. Rowan Wilson wanted to purchase a firearm for self-defense. The gun dealer, Loretta E. Lynch turned Wilson down knowing she used medical marijuana and didn’t want to break the law.
Upon receiving the news that she couldn’t purchase a firearm, Wilson filed a lawsuit against Lynch. The claim was Lynch prevented Wilson from her 2nd Amendment rights.
The case was first dismissed. Wilson eventually took it to the U.S. Court of Appeals after losing 2 previous appeals. Rowan eventually lost her fight.
According to the Court, Lynch did not violate Rowan’s 2nd Amendment Rights. Rowan’s use of medical marijuana made her an unlawful drug user at the federal level. A former case, the United States vs. Dugan determined this before Rowan’s case.
The Court also acknowledged that preventing drug users from buying guns lowered violent crimes. While recreational and medical marijuana is becoming widely accepted in society, the federal government still believes these drugs lead to more violent crime.
Issues with Enforcing Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws
While the legal language of the 1968 Gun Act and the ATF is clear, it’s challenging to enforce it. In an era of legal cannabis use, federal gun laws get murky.
According to law, a gun owner, whether they’re an everyday person or a security guard, cannot be around those who grow, sell, or consume marijuana products. Since the legality of marijuana, many cannabis growers and sellers hire security guards for protection. This includes protecting a dispensary, transporting marijuana, and money transfers to and from the dispensary.
Technically, gun-owning security guards working for a dispensary are in violation of the law. Even if they’re not using marijuana, they are working around it.
Many states such as Colorado, Michigan, and others turn a blind eye to this law. If they were to actively enforce it, they would be putting the cannabis industry at risk. Dispensaries and marijuana growers would be at a much greater risk for robbery.
The other challenge with enforcing these marijuana and gun laws is many recreational users don’t share that they use or have used marijuana. Unless they’re caught in possession, there’s no way to tell if someone purchasing a gun with a clean background uses or used cannabis products.
Owning Guns Before Using Medical Marijuana
Can people who already own a gun or more apply for a medical marijuana card? If they do, must they get rid of their guns?
This is where the law gets blurry. If you own guns prior to receiving a medical marijuana card, there aren’t any laws stating you must get rid of your guns. The current laws only prevent medical marijuana users from purchasing more or having guns around marijuana.
You run the risk of prosecution should you decide to sell your guns after receiving your medical marijuana card. This is due to you having the guns potentially around marijuana.
Can Recreational Marijuana Users Own Guns?
If medical marijuana cardholders can’t own a gun, can recreational marijuana users? The answer may surprise you.
There’s no exact way to find out if a potential gun buyer is also a recreational marijuana user. As long as you have a clean background check, you’re free to legally purchase, own, and use a gun. Anyone with a violent, criminal, or drug possession history cannot purchase or use a firearm.
There is a catch. If you’re caught using marijuana or around marijuana or producers, federal law enforcement will come down on you and you can face a heavy sentence.
Oregon’s Marijuana Laws and Gun Ownership
In 2011, four Oregon medical marijuana cardholders wished to obtain a concealed carry permit. The sheriff’s department denied the medical marijuana users the permits citing the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the ATF’s recent open letter enforcing the Act.
The Oregonians took the case to the supreme court where they won. An existing gun owner an Oregon can now apply and train to receive a concealed carry permit. Federally licensed gun dealers in Oregon and other states can’t sell a new gun to a medical marijuana cardholder.
The Future of Medical Marijuana and Guns
When it comes to medical marijuana and guns, it’s still illegal for marijuana users to purchase a gun. Recreational and medical forms of marijuana are illegal at the federal level, despite state laws and its growing acceptance.
Can these laws change? Many legal-cannabis advocates are pushing for the legality of marijuana at the federal level. When that happens, gun laws for medical marijuana users will likely change.
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