Guns and Marijuana: When Ideologies Clash on the Political Stage

Guns and Marijuana: When Ideologies Clash on the Political Stage

It has been said on more than one occasion that ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’. Nowhere in modern politics is the idea more evident than in the push to secure gun rights for cannabis users. Ideologies normally clash between gun rights supporters and their marijuana rights counterparts. But both are strangely willing to set ideologies aside in the pursuit of common goals.

It is a lot like the idea of the enemy of your enemy being your friend. People who would not normally get along find a way to unite in the fight against a common enemy. Yet in this particular case, it’s not clear who the common enemy is. Perhaps there is no common enemy. Maybe it’s about each group using the other’s ideology to pursue their own agendas.

Guns, Marijuana, and Federal Law

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Thanks to the Gun Control Act of 1968, anyone who unlawfully uses a controlled substance is ineligible to own or possess firearms. So by the letter of the law, neither recreational nor medical cannabis users can own or use guns.

A gun owner in Utah has every right to apply for a medical cannabis card under state law. But the minute he steps into the Deseret Wellness medical cannabis pharmacy in Park City and purchases cannabis products, he is in violation of the law. That is unless he sells his firearms prior to purchasing cannabis.

Likewise, a person wishing to purchase guns in Florida must submit a complete registration form. The federal form explicitly asks whether the consumer uses controlled substances. If the marijuana user answers ‘yes’, he cannot purchase guns. If he answers ‘no’ despite being a cannabis user, he is violating federal law by submitting a false instrument. Going through with a gun purchase would constitute a federal firearms violation.

Taking It to the Courts

Numerous lawsuits have been filed in recent years, lawsuits attempting to secure gun rights for legal cannabis users. All the suits rely on the concept of state-legal marijuana despite ongoing federal prohibitions against it. A case filed in Florida by former Agricultural Commissioner Nicky Fried was dismissed in late 2022.

In Oklahoma, a federal judge ruled the other way. He struck down an indictment against a man who was charged with firearms violations after an inspection of his vehicle revealed he possessed both a firearm and cannabis. The man was already on probation for aggravated assault.

The judge in the Oklahoma case ruled that the Gun Rights Act was unconstitutional in its prohibition against gun ownership and possession among users of controlled substances. It will be interesting to see where the case goes if state prosecutors appeal to the Supreme Court.

Preemptive Legislation in the House

An appeal may be unnecessary if a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) ever becomes federal law. The resurrected bill seeks to codify second amendment rights for medical cannabis users. As written, the law would not protect recreational users. But the chances of the bill becoming law without additional protection for recreational users is slim.

The interesting thing about all of this is that proponents of the bill are going to need help from colleagues who favor cannabis but despise guns. By the same token, second amendment advocates hoping to expand gun rights need to set aside their distaste for state-legal marijuana in order to get the help they need. Their two ideologies, while clashing under normal circumstances, have to be set aside if both hope to get what they want.

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Donna T. Dipietro

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