Gun Rights and Medical Cannabis: Can You Own a Gun as a Medical Cannabis Patient?
Four in ten Americans own a gun, and 32% of the population live in a home where there is at least one firearm, according to Pew Research data published in August 2023. The United States Second Amendment rights permit citizens to bear arms and protect themselves, their family, and property.
Owning firearms is not only a right but deeply ingrained in our culture. Few people know that possessing firearms and cannabis is a felony offense, according to federal law. If you have a registered gun and cannabis in your home, vehicle, or while traveling, you can face serious legal problems.
The conflict between the Second Amendment rights and the state laws about medical marijuana or recreational cannabis is talked about often. Many patients who own a firearm before getting a medical card do not feel they should have to surrender their weapons and risk jeopardizing their personal safety.
If you are thinking about getting a medical cannabis card or planning to purchase guns in the near future, there are a few facts you should know about the laws regarding ownership when you regularly use a controlled substance.
When Did Laws Prohibiting Gun Ownership and Cannabis Begin?
The ban and firearm regulation pertaining to cannabis (and any other controlled substance) goes back to The Gun Control Act of 1968. The law was passed after the violent and tragic deaths of President John Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
The deaths shocked the nation and prompted tighter restrictions on firearms and imposed stricter licensing and regulation on not only firearms but all destructive devices, which included grenades, bombs, mines, and similar devices that posed a threat to public safety.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD) was created by Congress to enforce the new Gun Control Act laws. The legislation also outlined interstate and foreign sales of firearms, identified “prohibited persons” or individuals who would not be permitted to own a firearm and other licensing controls.
What Were the Reasons Behind the Restrictions and Laws?
Gun violence rates were very low in America during the 1960s. From 1950 to 1968, there were less than ten gun-related fatalities in the United States per 100,000 people. However, in 1968, gun violence deaths began to increase, but the leading cause of death was motor vehicle accidents.
In 2021, firearms-related injuries became the leading cause of death in America. That year, 48,830 people died from violent gun-related injuries (murders and suicides) in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number, however, did not include deaths from other causes following a gunshot injury.
The concept behind banning gun ownership from people who regularly use drugs makes sense. Since the Federal government has not changed the classification of cannabis from a Schedule I Drug on the Controlled Substances list, cannabis (whether used for medical or recreational purposes). That means owning and possessing firearms when you also regularly use cannabis, is a federal offense.
Federal Gun Prohibition Laws: Who is Not Allowed to Buy Guns?
Federal law has created a national standard regarding firearm regulation and who can buy and own them. People who are determined to be at a potentially high risk of committing a violent crime are not permitted to legally own a gun.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s NICS background check method helps reduce access to firearms by people who may harm themselves or someone else. You may not be permitted to legally purchase or possess a firearm if any of the following applies to you:
- Conviction of a past violent crime (with or without a gun) and felony convictions. Some states also include previous misdemeanor charges.
- You are an illegal alien (non-resident).
- You have renounced your citizenship.
- You are currently a fugitive or have outstanding bench warrants for your arrest.
- An active protection order (restraining order) is in place.
- Past incidents of domestic violence (DV).
- Previous institutionalization or diagnosis of a mental health disorder.
- Past convictions regarding the use of drugs and prohibited substances.
Currently, Federal law does not differentiate between medical cannabis use and illegal use of a controlled substance, despite the fact that cannabis has been legalized in almost every state for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Can You Buy a Gun If You Have A Medical Card?
Regardless of state laws, possessing firearms and cannabis is a felony offense. However, in states where Constitutional Open Carry is legalized, you do not have to regularly register a gun you own. But if you want to purchase a new gun, you will be required to fill out an ATF Form 4473.
Federal laws require ATF Form 4473 anytime you purchase a new or used gun, which also includes gun ownership transfer during private sales. Section B, question 21e on the form asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
If you answer yes, you cannot purchase or transfer the gun. However, if you buy medical marijuana or use it recreationally, you are lying on a federal document. Knowingly providing false statements on a federal form can mean criminal prosecution (felony offense) and incarceration for up to ten (10) years.
It is important to note that registration for a medical marijuana card does not show up on a federal background check. Nonetheless, if you are in a car accident, or your vehicle is searched (for example)_ and you have medical cannabis and a gun in your vehicle, you can face legal charges.
Are There Any States That Have Laws That Allow Cannabis and Firearms?
There are a few states that have amended their laws to accommodate cannabis possession and firearm ownership. The states that have passed Constitutional Open Carry do not require a resident to have a permit for their gun, like the Florida medical marijuana and gun law.
In 2023, there are thirty-eight (38) states that allow residents to open carry without a permit and seven (7) states that permit open carry with a valid firearm permit. California and New Jersey are the two states that have the strictest gun control laws and licensing requirements.
If you live in a state that has legalized recreational use and Constitutional Open Carry laws, you may not run into a problem with local laws if you already own your firearm(s). However, there can be felony charges for knowingly providing false statements on the ATF Form 4473. It is the same crime as committing perjury in the eyes of federal law.
Will the Gun Control Act Change if Cannabis is Rescheduled?
It is not just private citizens who have been impacted by the catch-22 situation of cannabis and firearms. For example, many medical marijuana and recreational retail establishments have concerns and challenges. Guns are a necessity to protect dispensaries, particularly those that deal primarily with cash sales. The federal firearm regulation also applies to businesses, not just marijuana users.
One of the possible good things that could happen if cannabis is rescheduled on the federal Controlled Substances Act is clarity regarding gun ownership. For example, it may be determined that medical marijuana patients who do not have prior criminal charges for drugs or violent crimes may be legally able to purchase and possess firearms.
But while marijuana remains unlawful at the federal level, medical marijuana cardholders need to be aware that they are violating federal law. While the risks may be low if you do not travel with cannabis and your firearm together, there is still the possibility of gun owners facing legal consequences.
Make DocMJ Your Cannabis Healthcare Provider
Planning to get your medical marijuana card in Florida or another state? DocMJ provides thirty (30) conveniently located clinics across the state of Florida and telemedicine medcard health evaluation services in other states.
Start today! Schedule an appointment to apply for your medical card online with DocMJ.
Aaron Bloom serves as the CEO, overseeing the mission and growth of DocMJ and Medwell Health and Wellness Centers. Aaron’s passion for improving patients’ lives comes from his background in health care. For more than 20 years, Aaron owned, operated, and represented traditional healthcare organizations. This experience created a passion for finding improved ways to relieve suffering. His goal as CEO is to work daily to relieve all patients who seek better health and wellness through the medicinal benefits of medical cannabis and evidence-based alternative medicines.