By / February 22, 2024

Gun Rights & Dope Fiends: A Very American Debate

In recent years, the question has been raised in numerous state legislatures across the United States and in federal courts, with advocates for cannabis and gun rights challenging the constitutionality of the federal ban that currently prevents cannabis users from owning firearms.

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Gun Rights, Dope Fiends, and the Constitution

The U.S. Department of Justice has insisted on the necessity of barring cannabis users from owning firearms in numerous federal courts, arguing repeatedly that individuals who consume cannabis pose a unique danger, akin to allowing individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses to own firearms.

The issue of the constitutionality of the federal denial of gun rights for cannabis users is now before the Supreme Court of the United States, which is considering taking up the matter.

The justices must decide whether they will hear the appeal filed by the federal government against the decision of a local court, which found that the firearm restriction violated the Second Amendment.

The decision was made by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which reviewed the federal law known as Section 922(g)(3), which prevents a person who is an “unlawful user” of an illegal drug from purchasing or possessing firearms. The circuit court ruled the policy unconstitutional as applied to a man who faced conviction after admitting to consuming cannabis while in possession of a firearm.

Although the law prohibits cannabis users from possessing firearms, a 2019 FBI memo that recently surfaced shows that the federal government does not generally consider it a violation of the law for caregivers and medical cannabis growers to own firearms.

Republican lawmakers in Congress have introduced two bills during the first half of this two-year session, addressing the policy on firearms and cannabis.

Republican Congressman Brian Mast, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, introduced a bill last year aimed at protecting the Second Amendment gun rights of individuals who consume cannabis in legal states, allowing them to purchase and own firearms currently prohibited by federal law.

Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, has committed to attaching this legislation to a bipartisan bill on cannabis-related banking services, which was cleared by the committee in September.

Additionally, Mast is also co-sponsoring a separate bill with Republican Congressman Alex Mooney that would more narrowly allow patients who consume cannabis for medical purposes to purchase and own firearms.

Maryland Advances on Protecting the Rights of Medical Cannabis Patients

The Maryland Senate passed a bill aimed at protecting the gun rights of patients who consume cannabis for medical purposes, in accordance with state legislation, and has forwarded it to the House of Delegates.

In a 43 to 2 vote, the Senate approved Senator Mike McKay’s bill without discussion. This vote comes about a week after the text was approved by the Senate Judicial Affairs Committee.

If passed, the measure will protect the rights of registered medical cannabis patients to purchase, possess, and carry firearms under Maryland law, even though they are still prohibited from doing so by federal law.

The Maryland legislature also addressed the issue at the same time last year, with the House Judiciary Committee holding a hearing on a separate but related measure to ensure the protection of gun rights for patients who consume cannabis for medical purposes.

Legislative Efforts in a Few Other American States

Last month, for example, in neighboring Pennsylvania, a prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice due to the ban, which he argues violates the Second Amendment rights of patients who consume cannabis for medical purposes, like himself.

A Republican senator from Pennsylvania also recently stated that he would soon introduce a bill aimed at removing the barriers that state legislation places on the carrying of firearms by patients who consume cannabis for medical purposes.

The governor of South Dakota signed a bill that will require patients to check a box on their medical cannabis card application, stating that they understand federal law prohibits cannabis consumers from purchasing and owning firearms.

(Featured image by Terrance Barksdale via Pexels)

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