Do You Lose Your Gun Rights if You Have an MMJ Card?
A majority of U.S. states have now legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, as the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, there are a lot of legal gray areas surrounding its use.
One such area is the consequence of having a medical marijuana card on an individual’s gun rights. In this article, we will explore whether or not you lose your gun rights if you are a medical marijuana patient.
We’ll discuss the various laws and regulations that govern this issue, and discuss the potential implications for those who want to own a gun and have legal access to medical marijuana.
Do You Lose Your Gun Rights if You Have a Medical Marijuana Card?
The short answer, unfortunately, is yes. Even though the majority of states have approved medical marijuana, the drug is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance and therefore remains federally illegal.
Therefore the DEA, since it is a federal agency, deems anyone who uses marijuana to be an ‘unlawful user,’ regardless of whether they have a valid MMJ card in the state they live in.
Federal Law and Gun Rights for Marijuana Users
To purchase a firearm from a licensed seller, you must fill out a Firearms Transaction Record. This is a federal form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Section 11.e of this form requests that you disclose whether you consume marijuana or any other controlled substances. If you answer yes in this section, you forfeit your constitutional right to own a gun and bear arms.
And if you lie and fill out the form dishonestly, this constitutes perjury which is a felony punishable by up to a ten-year prison sentence.
To be clear, the United States Code Title 18, Section 922(g), and the Gun Control Act of 1968 are both against you. According to the 1968 law, you are not authorized to own a gun if you use or are addicted to marijuana.
What Does the ATF Say About Gun Ownership and Marijuana Use?
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE, or ATF) published an open letter to all firearms dealers in 2011. It made its stance very clear regarding marijuana use and gun ownership. The ATF told all authorized gun dealers that anyone with a valid medicinal cannabis card could not legally purchase a gun from a gun store.
According to the ATF, it is unlawful to own a gun under federal law, regardless of whether cannabis is decriminalized or legalized for medicinal or recreational use in your state.
Wilson v Lynch: A Seminal Case Relating to Gun Ownership and Marijuana Use
The Wilson v Lynch case involved a Nevada woman named S. Rowan Wilson, who could not purchase a firearm because she had a medicinal marijuana license. Wilson claimed the federal ban on marijuana users owning guns violated her Second Amendment rights.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, stating that marijuana is classified as an illicit narcotic under federal law and thus disqualifies people from owning firearms. The court based its ruling on the principle that marijuana use could impair the gun holder’s judgment, and increase the likelihood of firearm-related accidents or violence.
Do MMJ Cards Render a Gun License Null and Void?
Theoretically, yes. Even if you have an MMJ card and live in a state where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, you cannot legally own a handgun.
What if you want to get an MMJ card, but you already own a gun?
This is where the law gets even more complicated. If you already own firearms but want to apply for a medical marijuana card, there is no existing guidance on what to do with your gun. In fact, surrendering it could result in legal action.
Although the Gun Control Act contains clear language, enforcing it has proven challenging due to shifting attitudes toward marijuana, its emerging legality, and how enforcement is handled depending on the circumstances.
Can Medical Marijuana Card Holders Purchase a Gun?
Again, the short answer here is no. This is despite the fact that every citizen of the United States has a constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.
While the Wilson vs. Lynch ruling is pretty clear, it has not stopped some medical cannabis patients from purchasing firearms. To be clear, it is illegal for federal firearm dealers to sell guns to cannabis patients with medical marijuana cards.
However, this does not preclude a medical marijuana patient from purchasing firearms; it simply means they cannot buy a gun from an officially recognized arms dealer.
Each state has distinct laws regarding cannabis and gun ownership; some demand background checks, while others make it simple to purchase a gun.
In practicality, medical marijuana cardholders can, at their own risk of legal consequence, buy a gun from a private vendor. However, attempting to obtain a firearm from a firearm dealer or a retail outlet as a medical cannabis cardholder is unlawful.
Can Law Enforcement Tell if a Patient Has a Medical Cannabis Card?
If you use medicinal marijuana, law enforcement can verify your cannabis use by accessing the state’s medical cannabis patient registry. Several states have attempted to protect medical cannabis patients by prohibiting state police departments from accessing the medical marijuana patient registry.
In this case a police officer would be unable to determine whether a firearm applicant is a medical cannabis patient.
Regardless, however, states lack the authority to change the ATF Form 4473 instruction documents that deal with cannabis use and gun ownership, as well as the federal statutes governing gun ownership.
As a result, it will remain a gray area until cannabis is fully legalized on a federal level.
Can I Own a Gun if My Spouse Has a Medical Card?
Yes, you can own a gun if your spouse has a medical cannabis card, and you can also have a medical cannabis card if your spouse has firearms. In both circumstances, the spouse who owns the gun would need to secure it so that the other partner does not have access to it.
Can a Person be a Caregiver if they are Gun Permit Holders?
As one of the main roles of a caregiver is to purchase medical marijuana on behalf of the patient, holding a gun license may prevent that person from carrying out their duties as a caregiver. If a current gun owner intends to become a caregiver for a medical marijuana patient, they should seek legal advice from a lawyer versed in both state and federal laws before doing so.
Can You Own a Gun After Your Medical Marijuana Card Has Expired?
Theoretically, yes. If your medical marijuana card has expired, and you are not going to renew it, and you do not plan on purchasing marijuana from a licensed dispensary, there should be no issue with owning a gun in these circumstances.
Final Thoughts: Do I Lose My Gun Rights if I Have an MMJ Card?
Despite the vast majority of states permitting the use of medicinal cannabis for qualified patients, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance. As marijuana remains federally illegal, MMJ patients are categorized as unlawful users of a controlled substance and, therefore, cannot legally own a firearm and hold a valid MMJ card at the same time.
It appears that until the United States government either re-schedules marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, MMJ patients will have to continue to forego their constitutional right to bear arms.