Court: No Guns for Medical Marijuana Patients

By Victoria Kim 09/07/16

The court said pot “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

Court: No Guns for Medical Marijuana Patients
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A federal appeals court ruled last week that medical cannabis card holders can be barred from purchasing firearms. 

The ruling, made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was based on the federal rule that anyone who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” cannot own a firearm.

The Nevada woman who filed the lawsuit in 2011, S. Rowan Wilson, was refused the right to purchase a firearm because she had a medical cannabis card. But Wilson says she does not use the drug, and that she only became a card holder to express her support for cannabis legalization.

But according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), since cannabis is still prohibited under federal law, users are not exempt from the rule barring illicit drug users from owning firearms. 

In a statement issued by the ATF in 2011, the agency said a medical cannabis card presents a “reasonable cause to believe” that the individual is an “unlawful user of a controlled substance,” and therefore should not be sold guns or ammunition.

The federal court sided with the ATF, saying it is fair to assume that a person with a medical cannabis card is more likely to use cannabis, and that it would not be a violation of the Second Amendment to refuse to sell firearms to them. 

The court wrote in the 3-0 decision that cannabis use “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

Wilson’s attorney, Chaz Rainey, told AP that they plan to appeal the decision to the same court or take it as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. “We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no-fly list your constitutional right is still protected,” said Rainey.

Wilson argues that medical pot users are being unfairly discriminated against, and that they are no more volatile than any American qualified to purchase and own a gun. “The defendants have prohibited a certain class of law-abiding, responsible citizens from exercising their right to keep and bear arms,” she said in her lawsuit.

This is the second major decision made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in recent months that affects medical cannabis patients. In August, the court—whose jurisdiction covers nine western states including California, Washington and Oregon—ruled that the Justice Department should not be able to prosecute people for medical cannabis in states where it is legal.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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