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Federal Law Still Forces Choice Between Guns And Marijuana

Graham Perdue
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The spreading legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use created a burden for law-abiding gun owners. The federal government continues to prohibit users from owning firearms or ammunition in contradiction to state laws.

This forced a decision on many — to participate in their state’s legal marijuana system and have their Second Amendment rights ripped away or avoid the substance that remains illegal on the federal level.

Thirty-eight states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories now permit medical marijuana. Over 3.5 million Americans are currently enrolled in state programs to treat ailments ranging from seizures and PTSD to multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.


Then there’s several states, including California, that do not require registration with authorities for medicinal users. Additionally, there are now two dozen states that permit recreational marijuana use, piling onto the total of people barred by Washington from possessing a firearm. 

The national background check system’s (NICS) requirement for purchasing a firearm looks for a variety of disqualifiers.

They include a criminal conviction, mental health issues, a domestic violence restraining order, illegal immigration status or a dishonorable military discharge. But there’s also the marijuana problem. 

As the vast majority of states now permit its use for medicinal purposes, being a part of a state’s program is a solid roadblock to gun ownership. 


The system, however, may see a change in the near future. In October, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over the constitutionality of the federal law. 

A group of Florida plaintiffs asserted that last year’s landmark Supreme Court Bruen decision meant the statute ran afoul of the nation’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation.” The Sunshine State legalized medical marijuana in 2016.

Biden’s Justice Department claimed that prohibiting marijuana users from possessing firearms was aligned with traditional laws against drunk and mentally ill persons having weapons. 

Attorney William Hall countered on behalf of the plaintiffs that the nation’s legal history does not support disarming individuals when they are sober. He declared “that’s not a bridge too far. That’s about 10 bridges too far.”

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals determined in August that such laws were unconstitutional. If the 11th Circuit disagrees, it could set up a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine if marijuana users deserve to lose their Second Amendment rights.