It’s more bad news for the cannabis community as the ninth U.S. circuit court ruled that it is illegal to sell any state-legal medical marijuana card holder a firearm. It’s the second slap in the face of marijuana users the same month as the Drug Enforcement Agency announced that cannabis would remain a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
It’s a significant ruling for the ninth district court of appeals, which covers many marijuana-friendly western states such as California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The U.S. ninth district court of appeals sided with a gun shop owner who wouldn’t sell a Nevada woman a gun back in 2011. According to the senior judge, it was reasonable because using cannabis “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
Judge Shelli William Hayes is a retired judge, having served 18 years on the circuit court of Cook County of Illinois; she now practices law and is on the board of the National Cannabis Bar Association. Judge Hayes thinks the reasoning is absurd, especially given that the plaintiff wasn’t even a cannabis user, but a cardholder to support the marijuana movement.
Since the woman wasn’t a user, she wasn’t in a protected class, explained Judge Hayes. So the court has left the door open to hear another case from someone who uses it. She remarked, “I find that the notion that cannabis users are violent is bizarre. It’s absurd to think that a cannabis user is more likely to be violent when last I checked it hasn’t killed anyone.”
The woman wanted the gun for self-defense, but the firearm seller told her it was federally illegal for him to sell it to her.
The directive came in 2011, in an open letter to federally licensed firearm licensees from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives, and Firearms. The letter ascertained anyone admitting to using marijuana must be denied the sale of a firearm: “Federal law, 18 U.S.C. S 922(g)(3), prohibits any person who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 ULS.C. 802))” from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.” The letter explicitly says “there are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by State law.”
A licensed seller would know if the potential buyer is a cannabis user, all they have to do is look at question e. on ATF Form 4473:
Judge Hayes vehemently disagrees with the implications of the ruling. “Medical marijuana users shouldn’t be lumped in with other drug users,” she explained, “If people are following state rules, there’s no reason for the federal government to interfere, especially if they are suffering from a debilitating disease and need cannabis medicine.”