SACRAMENTO – A court has upheld a federal ban on medical marijuana cardholders in nine Western states, including California, to purchase a firearm.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by S. Rowan Wilson, who tried to buy a firearm in 2011 as a medical marijuana card holder. Wilson claimed the federal law violates her Second Amendment right to bear arms and is unconstitutional. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that the ban doesn’t violate the Second Amendment and will stand.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the federal government is still denying cannabis patients any of their constitutional rights, including their Second Amendment right,” Michael Liszewski, government affairs director at Americans for Safe Access, told the Northern California Record.
For Wilson, the ruling came after she tried to buy a gun for self-defense. The gun store refused her purchase saying it was a federal law to deny guns to illegal drug users.
While marijuana is legal in Nevada, where Wilson is from, it is illegal under the federal law of the U.S.
“Right now if you want to get a firearm, you have to fill out a form and the form has a question on it that says, 'are you an unlawful user addicted to marijuana,'" said Liszewski. “If a patient checks 'no' there, they are putting themselves at risk for a 10-year federal sentence and a $50,000 fine.”
The court ruled 3-0 in favor of the firearm purchase ban against medical marijuana cardholders. As part of its ruling, the court agreed that a medical marijuana cardholder is more likely to use the drug and the ban on the sale of guns to these individuals is reasonable as it could raise “the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which a gun should not be associated.”
“That’s part of our confusion,” said Liszewski. “There’s nothing that would cause a medical cannabis patient to be an inherently unsafe gun owner. Obviously is someone is intoxicated they shouldn’t be handling a firearm, but medical cannabis patients aren’t intoxicated all the time and even medical cannabis patients aren’t intoxicated ever.”
According to Liszewski, a medical marijuana cardholder is a user that may use little amounts of the drug slowly throughout the day and has built up a tolerance that doesn’t affect their ability to function.
“The idea that a medical marijuana patient is inherently dangerous and unfit to carry a firearm just doesn’t seem to be backed by any science,” said Liszewski.
In her case, Wilson also raised issues that her constitutional rights were being violated by because she was removed of her gun rights without due process. These arguments were also rejected by the 9th Circuit Court
Through her attorney Chaz Rainey, Wilson has said she plans to appeal the decision.
Medical marijuana is legal in California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Hawaii.
Recreational use is only legal in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska.