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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Feds Could Impose Restrictions on Cannabis Users’ Gun Rights Despite Law Changes

Federal law currently prohibits individuals who use cannabis from owning or possessing firearms. Although there are ongoing court cases challenging the constitutionality of these restrictions, even if cannabis users prevail in court, they may still face other federal government obstacles and limitations.

To better understand the current state of federal laws and regulations, it is recommended to review previous articles on this topic. In summary, if the federal gun control laws targeting cannabis users are overturned, there are two potential ways in which the federal government might still try to restrict their gun rights.

Misrepresentations on federal background check forms could lead to charges

The first method involves charging cannabis users who purchased firearms during the period when the federal gun restrictions were in place. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) requires gun buyers to complete an ATF 4473 form, which includes the following question:

Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

Answering “no” to this question while actually using cannabis could result in a felony charge. Although instances of such prosecutions are reportedly rare, they do occur. Notable examples include the reported investigation of Hunter Biden and charges against the mother of a 6-year-old student who allegedly shot her teacher. Even if federal courts eliminate the restrictions on marijuana users’ gun rights, misrepresenting cannabis use on the ATF 4473 form can still lead to federal charges.

Prior marijuana convictions may restrict gun rights

The second method involves the denial of Second Amendment rights for marijuana users with prior convictions. One of the questions on the ATF 4473 form asks:

Have you ever been convicted in any court, including a military court, of a felony, or any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?

Under this question, any conviction, including misdemeanors, that had the potential for a sentence longer than one year (even if an actual longer sentence was not received) can result in the denial of a firearm purchase. Thus, individuals convicted of a marijuana-related offense that could have led to a sentence longer than a year, even if they received a lesser punishment, could still lose their gun rights. This restriction may also persist even if the federal courts remove the prohibition specifically targeting marijuana.

However, it appears that this federal restriction could be subject to change. The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in the case of Range v. Attorney General of the United States of America that the law was invalid as applied to the plaintiff. Range had previously pleaded guilty to a nonviolent state misdemeanor that could have resulted in a sentence longer than a year, but he only received probation. After being denied the purchase of a firearm, Range filed a lawsuit and the federal appellate court determined that the law was invalid in his case. While this decision was specific to the plaintiff’s situation, it may pave the way for a broader ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the future.

What the future might hold for cannabis users’ gun rights

In my opinion, there is a high probability that the Supreme Court will declare federal restrictions on the gun rights of cannabis users to be unconstitutional. There is also a reasonable chance that restrictions related to certain non-violent offenses may also be deemed unconstitutional. However, any significant changes are still a long way off, and nothing is guaranteed. Even if some restrictions are lifted, the government will have other means to impede the gun rights of cannabis users unless there is a substantial shift in federal law or enforcement, which, while possible, seems less likely given current political trends.

If you would like to read more about cannabis users and their gun rights, please refer to the following articles:

For further updates, stay tuned to the Canna Law Blog.

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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