Trials and Litigation

Prohibiting firearm possession for medical marijuana users is reasonable, says 9th Circuit

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Marijuana and gavel

Individuals with state-issued medical marijuana cards may have debilitating illnesses and be less likely to commit violent crimes, yet Congress reasonably concluded that they should not have access to guns because the use of illegal drugs can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The case was brought by S. Rowan Wilson of Nevada, the Associated Press reports. According to the opinion (PDF) she attempted to buy a gun from Custom Firearms & Gunsmithing in 2011, and owner Frederick Hauser concluded that he could not make the transaction, because he knew she had a state-issued medical marijuana card.

That same year the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives published its “Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees,” which stated that people who use marijuana, including those with state-issued medical cards, are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, and remains illegal under federal law.

Wilson doesn’t use medical marijuana, and got the card to show support for its legalization, the opinion states. She argued that the open letter violated her First Amendment rights, since registering for a card was supporting her view that marijuana should be legalized. She also argued that the Second Amendment historically prohibits felons, people with a history of mental illness and illegal drug users from possessing firearms, and she does not fall into any of those categories.

The panel rejected Wilson’s First Amendment claim, and found that if she legally acquired guns before getting a medical marijuana card, federal law would not prevent her from keeping them.

“In addition, Wilson could acquire firearms and exercise her right to self-defense at any time by surrendering her [marijuana] registry card, thereby demonstrating to a firearms dealer that there was no reasonable cause to believe she is an unlawful drug user,” the panel wrote.

Chaz Rainey, Wilson’s lawyer, says that they plan to appeal the opinion.

“We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no fly list your constitutional right is still protected,” he told the AP.

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