Usually, attacks against the Second Amendment are a recipe for political disaster, as million of diehard gun advocates and the powerful NRA lobby are quick to show their outrage and pummel the perpetrator from any angles possible. Today, the time has come for the marijuana reform movement to demand the full support of the gun rights constituency as the federal government has just launched an egregious attack on this constitutional right. The NRA in particular has acted in a notoriously partisan manner in the past, backing the causes and candidacies of conservative America. If it will not back the cause of marijuana, then the organization’s stated commitment to protecting the right to bear arms would be revealed as nothing more than a political farce.
In a memo dated September 21st, the Justice Department, via the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), notified all gun dealers that they could not sell weapons or ammo to medical marijuana patients. The letter was sent to all carriers of a Federal Firearms License, which is a mandatory requirement for anyone engaging in commercial weapon sales, even if these are only within a single state. According to the memo “there are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such is sanctioned by State law,” and this “makes it unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance.”
Honest citizens who “may advise you that he or she is a user of medical marijuana, or present a medical marijuana card as identification or proof of residency” or truthfully answer “yes” to question 11E (“are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”) on the ATF Firearms Transaction Record form are to be denied their rights as “regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes,” such persons are “prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”
The memo goes a step further and advices recipients on how to better discriminate against marijuana patients. The ATF states that “having reasonable cause to believe” that someone uses marijuana is sufficient for denial and points out that “an inference of current use may be drawn from evidence of a recent use or possession of a controlled substance or a pattern of use or possession that reasonably covers the present time.” This means that even something as vague as rumors or a reputation are enough to take away a constitutional right. The mere knowledge that a person “is in possession of a card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana under State law” is sufficient to refuse a sale “even if the person answered ‘no’ to [the form] question.”
The issue of medical marijuana and Second Amendment rights has come up before; in one recent case a Sheriff in Oregon refused to give a weapons permit to a medical marijuana patient. The Oregon Supreme Court sided with the woman and her permit was approved, but the case may still theoretically make it to the US Supreme Court. This time around, the epicenter of criticism against the usurpation of rights is in Montana, where the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) and the Montana Sports Shooting Association (MTSSA) have made their strong opposition known immediately. Kate Cholewa from the MTCIA expressed particular outrage at the fact that “the policy goes so far as to say even being in possession of a medical cannabis card forfeits a citizen’s Second Amendment rights whether or not that person ever followed through and used cannabis for their condition.” According to marijuana lawyer Chris Lindsey, “with a stroke of a pen, the Department of Justice has suspended the Second Amendment for those who use medical cannabis.”
“It is egregious that people may be sentenced to years in a federal prison only because they possessed a firearm while using a state-approved medicine,” said Montana Shooting Sports Association president Gary Marbut. Interestingly, Marbut’s decades of work protecting gun rights may be key to getting the issue settled by the Supreme Court. Marbut wrote and pushed through the Montana Firearms Freedom Act which affirms that guns produced and sold only in Montana (carrying a special “in-state” stamp) are not subject to Federal regulations. Similar laws were soon passed in several other states and the concept has gathered a lot of political support, especially in conservative circles. Marbut’s own test case of the new law, centered around his right to produce a miniature rifle marketed at minors, is currently moving through the court system. His ultimate purpose for the entire endeavor is to curtail the Federal government’s extensive regulatory powers by overturning the 1942 Wickard v Filburn Supreme Court case.
We have previously looked into how this gun rights case may end marijuana prohibition, and now that possibility is looking distinctly more interesting. Marijuana advocates must use this opportunity to interlink the struggle for cannabis rights with the fight for gun rights as the two share the same fundamental Tenth Amendment principles which today’s conservative-leaning Supreme Court might favor. There are 10 state attorney generals backing various versions of the Firearms Freedom Act and now their exact same arguments may be used in defense of state medical marijuana laws. We have already seen anti-marijuana attorney generals, like Arizona’s Tom Horne, go to federal court to simultaneously fight for his state’s gun laws and against its marijuana laws. Now what will happen when the cases involve both?
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.