Medical Cannabis & Gun Rights: Will I Lose My Guns if I Obtain a Patient Card?
Cannabis gun rights have grown to be a very heated matter of discussion in recent years. There is still a lot of misunderstanding over how the existing gun laws affect the expanding medical cannabis population, even while the campaign for national gun reform continues.
Do you lose your gun rights if you have a medical card? If you are a registered medicinal cannabis patient, let’s make things clear — the short answer is pretty much “No”, but this article will go over some crucial points to keep in mind on a federal level. At the bottom of this article, we will have a link to an article that goes over each state’s regulations on possessing firearms and medical cannabis cards*, so you can easily learn about your applicable state laws.
(*writer’s note: these articles are in the process of being written. If you’d like us to prioritize your state, please let us know.)
Federal Gun Law for Cannabis Users
There are no exceptions to federal law for cannabis being used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is permitted under state law because cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. As a result, it is against federal law for someone with a medical cannabis card to buy, obtain, possess, or control a firearm.
In 2011, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons, and Explosives (ATF) informed all authorized firearms dealers in an open letter that anyone in possession of a valid medical cannabis card is unable to acquire a handgun from a gun store. The ATF states that regardless of whether cannabis use or possession has been decriminalized or permitted for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside, it is still illegal under federal law.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Wilson v. Lynch that registered medical cannabis users are not permitted to legally purchase firearms under federal law. The court determined that prohibiting the sale of weapons to medical cannabis users did not violate their Second Amendment rights.
The Wilson v. Lynch case, however, prompted the ATF to issue a second warning. The organization included a question in Form 4473, which prospective gun owners must complete before buying a weapon, asking whether they use cannabis or have a cannabis addiction. If you answer “Yes” to the question, you will not be permitted to lawfully possess a firearm. However, if you possess a medical cannabis card and falsely state that you do not use cannabis, you have committed perjury, a crime.
Due to the 2018 Farm Bill, users of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to this restriction since the bill does not consider hemp products to be controlled substances.
Do Medical Marijuana Cards Render a Gun License Void?
Basically, yes. You cannot lawfully own a firearm even if you are licensed for both medical and recreational use of cannabis and live in a place where it is allowed. If you apply for a medical cannabis card and already own a gun, the law becomes even more perplexing. There is no existing advice on what to do with your gun, and giving it up could result in legal action being taken against you.
The Gun Control Act includes clear language, but executing it has become difficult due to shifting attitudes toward cannabis, its emerging legality, and how enforcement is handled depending on the circumstances. An excellent example is the need for armed security guards to protect dispensaries in order to ensure security and monitor cannabis movement and transactions. These people are technically breaking the law by working in a dispensary since they are around cannabis. However, several states do not enforce the law in order to protect their cannabis industries.
As a side note, whenever your MMJ card expires, you will be able to buy a gun once more.
Can Medical Cannabis Card Holders Purchase a Gun?
According to the Second Amendment, every citizen of the United States has the right to keep
and bear arms. The Amendment clearly states that the government cannot violate this freedom, though existing gun laws forbid the possession of firearms by particular groups and demographics, such as convicted felons.
The federal government permits states that legalized cannabis to create and enforce their own cannabis laws. Different states tend to apply gun laws and rules differently, particularly when cannabis legislation and medical cannabis users are involved.
The Wilson vs. Lynch ruling doesn’t necessarily close the door for medical cannabis patients seeking to purchase guns. While it is unlawful for federal firearm dealers to sell firearms to cannabis patients who have identification cards, this does not mean that a medical cannabis user cannot purchase firearms at all; it only suggests that they cannot do so through officially recognized arms dealers. Each state has different rules about cannabis and owning a gun; some states require background checks and others make it easy to buy a gun with little fuss.
In short, medical cannabis cardholders can only purchase a gun from a private seller. It is illegal to try to acquire a firearm from a federal firearms dealer or those who own a retail location as a medical cannabis cardholder.
Can Law Enforcement Determine if a Patient Owns a Medical Cannabis Card?
If you use medicinal cannabis, law enforcement may be able to authenticate your cannabis use by obtaining this information from a state database or a medical cannabis patient registry. Several states have made an effort to protect medical cannabis patients by blocking state police from accessing the medical cannabis patient registry to find out whether a firearm applicant uses medical cannabis.
Even if your state has approved cannabis for either medical or recreational use, neither group of cannabis users can possess firearms. States lack the power to amend the ATF Form 4473 guidance materials that deal with cannabis usage and gun ownership and the federal regulations for gun possession. So it’s going to be a gray area until cannabis is completely legalized on a federal level.
All of this ultimately means that, for the time being, as a medical cannabis patient, you may have to decide between your Second Amendment rights and your medical cannabis card. It’s a risky game to play, but someone determined enough to possess a gun and use cannabis in defiance of federal law will probably find a way to do it.
Future legislation that will give medicinal cannabis patients access to this game-changing treatment and full access to their Second Amendment rights is likely coming soon.
Listed below are the laws in each state regarding holding a medical marijuana card and firearm simultaneously.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia