On Sept. 21, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) responded to confusion in the federal firearms licensing community about whether medical marijuana patients can apply for gun ownership.
Its letter refers to the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. An unlawful user or addict to controlled substances is prohibited from purchasing firearms or ammunition. Furthermore, presenting a medical marijuana card is “reasonable cause to believe” that the transferee is an unlawful user or addict.
According to Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, one court held the definition of unlawful use to mean constant use over an extended period of time. The possession of a medical marijuana card alone does not legally fulfill this definition.
On Oct. 18, the ATF was sued for discrimination against law-abiding citizens from prohibiting the exercise of the Second Amendment and due process clause of the Fifth Amendment in accordance with state law. Three years earlier, an Oregon resident was denied renewal of her concealed weapon permit for being a registered medical marijuana patient. Her case is ongoing.
These are citizens who have never been charged with a criminal or drug-related offense, who have neither been found illegally using nor addicted to marijuana.
Just to clarify, marijuana has been shown to decrease aggression and violent behavior.
Even so, the ATF should not be held accountable for interpreting federal statutes, or for making exceptions outside their jurisdiction. The mission statement of the Department of Justice is clearly meant to enforce the law and protect its interests.
The Federal Firearms License under the Gun Control Act has sanctioning authority in the sale of both intrastate and interstate commerce. However, the exclusive powers traditionally reserved to the states include licensing, such as for hunting. The medical marijuana card is effectively a license, as observed through state regulation and oversight. The Tenth Amendment should be raised.
Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted use in medical treatment. Somehow, the accessibility of medical marijuana to nearly 100 million Americans, 16 states and the District of Columbia has done nothing to convince the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has refused to reschedule marijuana for the past two decades.
Addiction as it relates to medical marijuana should be deemed a contradiction in terms. Quite frankly, the difference between habitual medical and recreational use of marijuana is just like the difference between proper use and abuse of other prescription drugs.
Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States, but not because of its potential for abuse. Physiological dependence in marijuana is already minor, and there is no such thing as narcotic addiction when a drug is used for pain relief, no matter how much or how often it is being administered. If a patient follows the supervision of his or her physician, there is no reason to believe addiction will ensue.
The ATF directs applicants to answer “yes” if they are unlawfully using or addicted to marijuana, but does not necessarily expect applicants to answer truthfully. The Bureau is not in a position to cross-reference applications with state lists of medical marijuana users. But patients should not have to commit perjury in order to exercise their rights.
For those who intend to answer truthfully, it seems unlikely the law will rule in their favor. Memos from the Department of Justice in 2009 and 2011 have set priorities on large-scale operations and ask federal prosecutors to limit their attention on the seriously ill. However, federal prosecution does not offer immunity to anyone breaking existing law, including state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients, especially where firearms are concerned.