The Ultimate Guide to Marijuana and Gun Laws
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The legalization of cannabis in the USA is high and it’s getting even higher. As of July 2019, weed is legal for either recreational or medical use in 33 states and Washington, DC.
Now, if you own a gun or you wish to do so, don’t celebrate yet. According to federal law, guns and cannabis don’t mix. Apparently, you cannot stone and smoke gun at the same time. This means that if you wish to use pot legally either for recreation or legal medical use, then you’ll need to forfeit your second amendment rights of owning a gun.
This bizarre gun or weed issue stems from the conflicting federal and state laws regarding pot. According to the federal government, weed remains illegal regardless of what the law in your state says about it.
Under the drugs scheduling system, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 enlists marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC- the psychoactive ingredient in pot) under schedule 1 drugs.
The drugs in this category are considered to have a ‘’high potential for abuse’’, are not accepted for medical use in the USA, and lack an acceptable medical use under supervision. Practically, this means that you cannot sell, purchase, cultivate, or use them.
However, despite this prohibition by the federal government, the Obama administration had a relatively relaxed stance. It allowed states to deal with pot as they wished as long as they put strict measures to prevent legal weed from falling into kids’ hands and provided they didn’t cross state lines.
Now, there are 2 federal state lines that the Trump administration relies on to make gun ownership and weed use hard in all states.
First, according to Title 18, section 922 (g) of the United States Code, it is unlawful for unlawful users and addicts of controlled substances (including cannabis) to possess or receive a firearm or ammunition.
Secondly, this law goes ahead to prohibit the sale or disposal of any firearm or ammunition to any person who is an unlawful user of or an addict to any controlled substances.
The enforcement of this law is what creates all the dilemma. Title 18, section 922 further requires all licensed firearms dealers to carry out a background check on the would-be gun purchaser. One requirement here is to submit a statement proving their legal eligibility to purchase a firearm.
This involves filling the Firearms Transaction Record or what is popularly known as Form 4473 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Among other questions, section E of Question 11 requires you to answer whether you are an unlawful user or addicted to weed among other controlled substances. This question is then accompanied by a disclaimer in bold reminding you that the use of marijuana remains illegal whether or not the state you reside has approved it for medical or recreational use.
Lastly, you need to affirm in writing that you clearly understand that answering Yes to any of the sections from 11b to 11i disqualifies you from being eligible to buy a firearm.
I don’t have a gun and a medical card, can I get both?
In a scenario where you want to get both a gun and a medical weed card, you’ll need to determine what you really need most and forfeit the other. This is because as it stands, you can’t own the 2 at the same time.
The major issue here is that while states are at liberty to legalize weed for medical or recreational use, the laws on firearms ownership are strictly stipulated by the federal government, and they can’t be overridden by state laws.
What if you own a gun and want to get a medical marijuana card
According to federal law, licensed gun owners need to trade their gun rights if they are planning to apply for a medical marijuana identification card.
Actually, some police departments in certain states including Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have been reported to enforce this federal law over state law by pushing gun owners who have obtained medical marijuana card to dispose of or turn in their weapons.
Of course, this did not come without a lot of complaints from the public. However, although these particular police departments retreated for some time, law enforcers in Pennsylvania and Hawaii have stuck onto their guns and actually won’t give permits to medical pot users.
I have a medical marijuana card and want to get a gun
A medical card might save you from being arrested for using pot at the state level. But it’s a red flag for legal gun sellers and they view you as an unlawful user of a prohibited substance at federal level.
Even if you take weed for health reasons, it’s technically a crime to get a gun. Actually, no licensed dealer will sell it to you since simply admitting that you are a user of cannabis in Form 4473 leads to automatic denial.
Luck for Oklahomans
If you live in Oklahoma and have a medical marijuana card, you are on luck’s side. House Bill 2612 signed on April 15th 2019 by Governor Kevin Stitt states categorically that medical marijuana patients can’t be denied their constitutional right to purchase, won, and possess a gun by the state or any local agencies. This bill will take effect by September this year.
For everyone else, unless there is an amendment on the current federal law or states amend the way these laws are interpreted and enforced, you’ll need to either go home without a gun or commit a perjury when answering the question on whether you consume or are addicted to cannabis.
There’s a loophole, though.
Now, while it’s federally illegal for licensed gun dealers to sell a firearm to a medical marijuana patient, private dealers are exempted from this by what is commonly known as ‘gun show loophole’, private sale exemption, or secondary market.
Basically, a gun show loophole is a commercial gun sale (similar to the one done at gun shows) that is not required to do a background check on the would-be buyer. Therefore, it’s legal for these sellers to sell a firearm without asking you to fill Form 4473.
Several states have taken stricter measures on this issue, though. Some such as Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and New Jersey now require all firearms dealers both licensed and unlicensed to conduct a universal background check before making any transfers.