Gun Rights Pose A Problem For Medical Marijuana Users

By Keri Blakinger 11/17/16

Federal law is forcing Americans to choose between weed and guns.

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Gun Rights Pose A Problem For Medical Marijuana Users

Would-be gun owners hoping to take advantage of newly approved marijuana legalization measures could be in for a buzzkill.  

Even as cannabis legalization—both recreational and medicinal—spreads across the country state by state, the nation’s gun laws haven’t caught up. 

Although cannabis in some form is now legal in 28 states plus Washington D.C., federal law still bans anyone who uses marijuana from buying a gun, according to the Wall Street Journal

“This idea that you somehow waive your Second Amendment rights if you smoke marijuana” is misguided, NORML founder Keith Stroup told the paper. “In particular, if you are using marijuana as a medicine, the idea that you have to choose between your health and the Second Amendment is offensive.” 

Part of the conflict stems from the fact that federal law still prohibits marijuana—which is why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) asks about pot use on one of the forms that would-be gun buyers have to fill out at licensed firearms dealers.

“The Gun Control Act prohibitions are governed by the Controlled Substances Act, and marijuana remains an illegal, controlled substance under federal law,” said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.

As a result, if a potential customer cops to using marijuana, the dealer has to halt the sale. 

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by State law,” ATF guidance dictates. 

But gun rights advocates and marijuana proponents aren’t typically on the same side of political debates, so it’s an issue the firearms community hasn’t often weighed in on. 

A federal appeals court had no trouble weighing in, though. The Ninth Circuit recently ruled the banning medical marijuana users from buying firearms doesn’t violate the Second Amendment, as marijuana is still a Schedule I substance.

Of course, for medical marijuana users, this sort of limitation isn’t anything new. Cannabis users face discrimination for everything from housing to custody to student loans.

“Even if you’re a progressive who doesn’t like guns or a libertarian who doesn’t like public housing, you should still be outraged by the discrimination that people who use marijuana face,” Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell told the Wall Street Journal.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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