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Medical marijuana patients are barred from using and owning guns.

Court: Pot Smokers Can’t Have Guns

A U.S. appellate court ruled in August that marijuana users, including medical tokers in California, may not own guns.

The ruling, handed down Aug. 31 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, prohibits even legitimate medical pot patients from owning firearms. A panel including three of the court’s judges upheld a federal law barring all gun ownership by cannabis users.

The judges ruled that patients who use marijuana within the Ninth Circuit do not have a Second Amendment right to own firearms. The circuit includes most of the Western United States, including California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, along with Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The ruling applies to all these places.

The court affirmed a decision by a U.S. district judge in Nevada that a gun store owner was within his rights to refuse to sell to a customer with a medical marijuana card.

Drug users banned from firearm ownership

Federal law bars consumers of any illegal drug from buying, owning, or using firearms or bullets. Cannabis is legal as medicine under the laws of 25 states, including four where it is allowed for recreation, but it remains illegal for any use under federal statute.

Defendants caught with both guns and drugs typically face enhanced penalties, said Amanda Reiman, head of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Using a gun in connection with an offense such as cultivation or possession with sale can result in additional criminal charges,” Reiman said, noting that prosecutors often combine charges to increase penalties.

Gun and Marijuana

In its decision, the Ninth Circuit cited a letter from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying any person “who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medical purposes . . . is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

The case started with a lawsuit by S. Rowan Wilson, a patient in Nevada who tried to buy a gun in 2011. The merchant, who knew about Wilson’s marijuana use, refused to sell, and Wilson sued.

Both the Obama administration and the federal courts have moved gradually toward cannabis reform in recent years, but the three-judge panel said Wilson’s arguments were not enough to “overcome Congress’ reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

Cannabis use not linked with irrational, unpredictable behavior

There is no credible science to back claims that pot makes its users dangerous, irrational, or even impulsive. The only violence connected to the drug stems from the black market.

“There’s absolutely no evidence to support the notion that marijuana use leads people to be more violent,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority. “Regardless of how you feel about guns, no one should be discriminated against or treated differently by the government just because they happen to enjoy marijuana. That should be especially true for people who consume cannabis for medical purposes in accordance with state laws and their doctors’ recommendations.”

Leave a comment: Are armed marijuana users more dangerous than other gun owners? Tell us what you think.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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