With eight states now allowing (or implementing laws to allow) adult use of cannabis and over half of the country allowing medical marijuana, it is no doubt something the government can only continue to ignore for so long. Unfortunately, the first change we’re going to see from the feds in early 2017 is going to be an addition to the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) form 4473, a federal application that must be filled out truthfully by anyone looking to purchase a gun. A question on the application that asks if you are an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other controlled substances has now been clarified for those living in states where their cannabis use is legal.
“Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
The above warning will now appear on all applications as of January 16th, 2017. This warning makes it painfully obvious that if you are using cannabis legally under state laws, even if you are using it under a doctor’s supervision like any other prescription medication, it is still unlawful according to the government. This was not necessarily prompted by the growing number of states legalizing marijuana in one form or another, but rather by a court case where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against a medical marijuana patient from Nevada who said it was a denial of her second amendment rights.
“I’ve always thought the government’s position on marijuana is archaic,” said Rachel Gillette, who manages the Cannabis Practice Group in the Denver Office of Greenspoon Marder. “That they continue to deny the medical efficacy of marijuana, that they don’t seem to appreciate the realities of people who consume marijuana and can consume it responsibly, and they can also be responsible gun owners.”
It really seems a bit unreasonable for the government to decide that marijuana use – which has been proven to be safer than alcohol – should be grounds to deny someone a firearm if they are otherwise eligible. We don’t ban people on anti-depressants and opiates from purchasing guns – and alcohol consumption, which has been proven to make people more hostile, also won’t disqualify you from gun ownership. So if use of those substances are not of concern to the federal government, then why is cannabis?