News & Politics

Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Ban on Guns for Medical Marijuana 'Users'

Guess which circuit court?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a restriction on Second Amendment rights for those citizens who use medical marijuana. Or rather might use medical marijuana.

It came in a lawsuit filed by S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada woman who said she tried to buy a firearm for self-defense in 2011 after obtaining a medical marijuana card. The gun store refused, citing the federal rule banning the sale of firearms to illegal drug users.

Wilson has a card that allows her to purchase medical marijuana. The card doesn’t prove she uses marijuana, it just means she could purchase medical marijuana if she wanted. But because marijuana is illegal under federal law, the gun store owned by Frederick Hauser refused to sell her a gun. Wilson says she doesn’t use medical marijuana, but only got the card to show her support for marijuana legalization.

Jacob Sullum over at Reason elaborates (read the whole thing, it’s very good):

Hauser had just received a letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that said anyone who uses marijuana as a medicine, “regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes,” qualifies as an “unlawful user of a controlled substance” and is therefore forbidden to buy or possess guns under 18 USC 922. The ATF added that “if you are aware that the potential transferee is in possession of a card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana under State law, then you have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance,” meaning “you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to the person.” Since violating that edict is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Hauser was understandably reluctant to sell Wilson a gun.

Now we understand why the gun store didn’t want to sell her a gun: the Feds.

This issue has been taken up by the courts before…sort of. In 2014 the court upheld a ban on gun sales to folks who use illegal drugs. But Wilson sued because she claims she doesn’t use illegal drugs, she only has a card to use marijuana if she chooses. Are her rights being violated when the government assumes a medical marijuana card means she is an active drug user?

The 9th Circuit admitted that the ATF places the burden on Wilson’s Second Amendment right but claims that burden “is not severe.”

“We see the same amount of danger in allowing habitual drug users to traffic in firearms as we see in allowing felons and mentally ill people to do so,” the 9th Circuit said in that case. “Habitual drug users, like career criminals and the mentally ill, more likely will have difficulty exercising self-control, particularly when they are under the influence of controlled substances.”

Do you agree with the court’s decision?