Pothead gun nuts might soon have to choose between their buds and their bullets. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld last week a mandate from the ATF that prohibiting the sale of guns to medical marijuana cardholders, as reported by the Alaska Dispatch News.
This all started back in 2011 when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) released an “Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees” telling gun dealers not to sell to marijuana users and “addicts.” The leader reads: “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”
The letter was pretty much ignored by most firearm dealers, who either thought the ATF was being a little nutty or didn’t want to lose out on sales by doing extra background checks. So this wasn’t a major issue until a gun shop in Nevada refused to sell a gun to a woman named S. Rowan Wilson on the grounds that the owner knew Wilson to be a medical marijuana patient.
Wilson challenged the shop’s decision on the grounds that it infringed upon her Second Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals hit back hard, setting a precedent that could be mighty inconvenient for folks who want to do their gun owning and their dope smoking legally. While the ATF called marijuana users addicts, the court went so far as to compare marijuana users to the mentally ill.
“…the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of unlawful drug users to bear arms,” the court opinion reads, “in the same way that it does not protect the rights of ‘felons and the mentally ill.’ The Government argues that if the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of unlawful drug users to bear arms, it must not protect any possible rights of unlawful drug users to purchase firearms or of firearm dealers to sell to unlawful drug users.”
This is another example of the problematic nature of state versus federal legalization. No matter how legal state and local authorities make cannabis, federal agencies such as the ATF or DEA can still call it a “controlled substance” and persecute users based on that fact. This will be the case as long as the federal government chooses not to reschedule marijuana on the controlled substance list.