Debate Swells Over Medical Marijuana And Gun Ownership

By Victoria Kim 06/26/19

Currently it is illegal to possess both marijuana and a legal firearm, even if you are using marijuana for a medical purpose.

gun lying on medical marijuana leaves

“Is allowing the combination of high-powered pot and gun use a good idea?” queries Alex Halperin of The Guardian.

This debate is no joke. It involves the clashing of numerous contentious elements—federal marijuana prohibition, state marijuana legalization, the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution and growing tension around gun policy as Americans have numbed to the frequency of mass killings.

Currently it is illegal to possess both marijuana and a legal firearm, even if you are using marijuana for a medical purpose. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) made this clear in a 2011 Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees:

“Federal law prohibits any person who is an ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance’ from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition… There are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by State law.”

The same goes for anyone selling or providing firearms or ammunition to people who use marijuana.

Marijuana remains a controlled substance—i.e. a prohibited drug—in the eyes of the federal government. Under the Controlled Substances Act marijuana is defined as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

Some see this rule as a violation of their constitutional right to bear arms. In April, the governor of Oklahoma signed House Bill 2612, barring state or local agencies from denying medical marijuana patients “the right to own, purchase or possess a firearm just because they’re a medical marijuana patient.”

And a federal bill introduced in the House of Representatives (also this past April), H.R. 2071, would extend this protection across all states where medical marijuana use is legal.

“Why am I going to give up one of my rights because I found an organic plant that some are uncomfortable with? I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to trade my rights like baseball cards,” said Joshua Raines, a 31-year-old Army veteran, according to the Dallas News.

Using CBD oil reduced the number of Raines’ seizures from up to 40 per month to just two or three. But he’s opted to stay out of Texas’ Compassionate Use Program, which allows CBD for intractable epilepsy, because he does not want to give up his right to purchase a firearm. So according to state policy, Raines’ use of medical marijuana is illegal.

Halperin suggests that with the current lack of sufficient research on the effects of marijuana (due to the fact that it is restricted by the federal government) allowing marijuana users access to firearms may “exacerbate” gun violence in the U.S.—though he does acknowledge the anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana has helped many people including Raines.

As access to marijuana—both medical and recreational—expands as more states legalize it, the debate will also grow from here.

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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