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Federal Judge Rules Banning Firearms For Cannabis Users Is Unconstitutional

Benzinga logo Benzinga 2/6/2023 Nina Zdinjak
© Provided by Benzinga

Are marijuana users allowed to own guns under federal law?

According to Oklahoma Federal Judge Patrick Wyrick, a federal law banning cannabis consumers from owning firearms is unconstitutional. Wyrick, who was appointed by Donald Trump, cited last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that largely broadened gun rights, reports Reuters.

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In June, the Supreme Court declared that an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense is protected by the U.S. Constitution. A week following the landmark ruling the high court dismissed several cases sending them to lower courts for reconsideration, including bans on assault-style rifles in Maryland as well as large-capacity ammunition magazines in New Jersey and California.

On Friday, Wyrick dropped the indictment against Jared Harrison, who was charged in August for violating that ban, claiming it invaded his right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

The judge argued that even though the lawmakers can protect the public from dangers connected to the ownership of firearms, the government can’t claim that Harrison’s “mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm."

“The use of marijuana—which can be bought legally (under state law) at more than 2,000 ordinary storefronts in Oklahoma — is not in and of itself a violent, forceful, or threatening act. It is not a ‘crime of violence.’ Nor does it involve ‘the actual use or threatened use of force,’” Judge Wyrick wrote. 

A public defender representing Harrison in this case, Laura Deskin, praised the ruling saying this was “a step in the right direction for a large number of Americans who deserve the right to bear arms and protect their homes just like any other American." She added that cannabis is the most commonly used substance that is illegal under federal law. 

Cannabis Use & Guns Recent Developments  

This year, the first cannabis-focused bill filed in the new Congress concerns the controversial issue of medical marijuana patients and their gun rights, or medical marijuana and second amendment conflicts.

The bill (HR 363), introduced on Jan 13, by RepAlex Mooney (R-WV), seeks “to amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to the sale, purchase, shipment, receipt, or possession of a firearm or ammunition by a user of medical marijuana, and for other purposes.”

The measure is co-sponsored by RepBrian Mast (R-FL), an Afghan War veteran and a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who is known for advocating for veterans’ access to medical marijuana. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) is also a co-sponsor.

Previous Efforts

This is not the first time politicians have tackled this thorny problem. Last year, Florida's agriculture and consumer services commissioner Nikki Fried took the issue to court and sued the federal government for not allowing MMJ patients to buy and own firearms. 

“No patient should have to choose between medicine and employment, a roof over their head, access to capital or their Constitutional rights,” Fried said adding that the country's marijuana policies are “irrational, inconsistent, and incoherent.”

In July, Fried’s lawyers and other plaintiffs argued that under the recent SCOTUS ruling, a current federal policy banning those who admit to using MMJ in a background check cannot be enforced.

In August, the DOJ ordered a federal court to dismiss Fried’s lawsuit, arguing it would be too “dangerous to trust regular marijuana users to exercise sound judgment.”

Fried said she was disappointed that the DOJ decided to “double down on harmful prohibition policies. DOJ’s argument is as offensive as it is inaccurate.

“I will never stop looking for outside-the-box ways we can further this fight until we achieve full and equitable legalization,” she said at the time.

Then, in November, a Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit. US District Judge Allen Winsor ruled that “Florida’s medical marijuana users are ‘unlawful user[s] of . . . [a] controlled substance,’ so this law makes it a crime for them to possess firearms.”

Wilton Simpson, Fried’s successor as the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture as of this January, has not joined a new push to have the ban declared unconstitutional. 

According to a new filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, those listed as appellants are requesting an oral hearing to be held to lay out their arguments.

Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference Is Back!

The most successful cannabis business event in the world, the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, returns to Miami for its 16th edition.

This is the place where DEALS GET DONE, where money is raised, M&A starts and companies meet investors and key partners. Join us at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel in Florida on April 11-12. Don’t miss out.

 Secure your tickets now. Prices are going up soon.

Photo: Benzinga edit with images by Pixabay, Alesia Kozik, EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA

via Pexels


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