The Marijuana Problem.
The federal government and states need to align regarding legalized marijuana.
Over the last decade we’ve witnessed state after state vote to legalize marijuana in some form or another. At current count, Washington DC and 28 states, including Massachusetts have voted to legalize weed.
This sets a dangerous precedent for law abiding gun owners.
The ATF has an intriguing question on their form 4473, which must be filled out truthfully any time a firearm is purchased or transferred from a dealer.
Question e. Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
At first glance this question doesn’t seem to pose a problem, however one must read this question bearing in mind that the federal government still considers marijuana use or possession a crime.
SafeAccessNow.org outlines the federal law as follows: “The federal government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811), which does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis… the federal government views cannabis as highly addictive and having no medical value. Doctors may not “prescribe” cannabis for medical use under federal law, though they can “recommend” its use under the First Amendment… Federal law still considers cannabis a dangerous illegal drug with no acceptable medicinal value. In several federal cases, judges have ruled that medical issues cannot be used as a defense, though defense attorneys should attempt to raise the issue whenever possible during trial. Federal law applies throughout Washington D.C. and the United States, not just on federal property.”
The issue at hand is that should a gun owner who uses marijuana “legally” in their state, truthfully answer question e. “are you an unlawful user” with a “yes” answer, (remember, it may be lawful in your state, but it’s still unlawful according to the feds) it will trigger a denial on the purchase, and often times can trigger a revocation of their license, we have heard of this happening to MA gun owners!
On the flipside, filling out a 4473 untruthfully is also a crime, it is a felony violation to knowingly make a false statement or show a false identification to an FFL: § 922 (a)(6), 10 years or § 924 (a)(1)(A), 5 years.
Gun owners who use marijuana “legally” (according to their state’s law) are breaking federal law and are caught in a legal “catch-22”, they can’t answer the question truthfully, as that is admitting a federal crime, and they can’t lie as that is also a crime.
This problem needs to be addressed at the federal level. The federal government needs to give deference to state law and to date they haven’t as of yet done so.
To make things more interesting, the USA Today reported in August that the federal government has no intention of changing current law: “Marijuana will remain a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule 1 are determined by the Food and Drug Administration to have no medical use. States that allow marijuana for medical use or legalize recreational use remain in defiance of federal law”, they continued, “the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
Going forward we hope that our congressional representatives take this issue up and eliminate yet another legal land mine that gun owners need to navigate.