The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has for years prohibited gun and ammunition sales to marijuana users, claiming a risk of “irrational or unpredictable behavior,” AKA reefer madness. But now, the ATF has added a new warning to Form 4473 making it clear to anyone applying for a gun permit that cannabis remains illegal under federal law and using it means you cannot buy a gun, reports Gillian Graham at the Portland Press Herald.
This is despite the fact that more than half the American population now lives in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use.
The new language was added just last week to forms filled out by gun buyers nationwide. It has raised concerns that the government is unfairly denying marijuana users their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
Medical and recreational cannabis advocates are calling for a change in federal law to catch up with the country’s changing attitudes towards marijuana.Twenty-eight states nationwide allow medicinal use of cannabis. Eight states plus D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults 21 and older.
But the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I drug, considered as dangerous as heroin, LSD and ecstasy. (Both cocaine and methamphetamine, incidentally, are Schedule II drugs, meaning your federal government considers them safer than weed. Crazy? Yes. True? Yes.)
Question 11e on Form 4473 – which asks if the buyer is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana … or any other controlled substance?” – now has a warning printed below it in bold type that states: “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.”Marijuana users who lie on the federal form, denying their cannabis use (whether medicinal or not), could face federal charges. Lying on a gun purchase form is a felony, for which you could get up to five years in federal prison.The new language on gun purchase forms is meant to make it clear that the federal government does not want pot smokers to be armed.
“It’s really a ‘Guys, we mean it’ kind of statement,” David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is putting a lot of people in an uncomfortable position by either not letting them own a gun for hunting or self-defense, or lying so they can have a gun for protection or hunting.”
The revision was meant to make it clear that federal law does not recognize the state issuance of medical marijuana cards, according to Christopher Arno, special agent and public information officer for the ATF Boston Field Division. The warning also applies to recreational cannabis use.
Federal law bans gun purchases by an “unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance,” as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968. A 2011 memo to gun dealers clarified that the law does, indeed, apply to marijuana users regardless of whether the state in which they reside has legalized medical marijuana.
The ATF has told gun dealers they can assume any person with a medical marijuana card uses cannabis, and there is disqualified to buy a gun. That position was recently upheld in federal court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unaccountably ruled last August that the ban on gun sales to medical marijuana card holders does not violate the 2nd Amendment. The court ruled that Congress concluded that marijuana “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.” The court also concluded that it’s reasonable for regulators to assume all medical marijuana card holders use marijuana.
No drug testing is required when buying a gun; lots of people lie on the form. But gun owners can be charged for falsifying the form if the ATF later finds out they are marijuana users.
Meanwhile, the right-wing National Rifle Association (NRA) has been completely useless. Somehow, the NRA, which purports to be the voice of gun owners nationwide, becomes curiously meek and silent when it comes to gun owners who use marijuana.The federal government is unfairly treating cannabis as a more dangerous substance than it actually is, according to activists. They say marijuana users are being deprived of a constitutional right. The push is on to get the feds to reschedule cannabis, or legalize it entirely, to resolve the issue.
“It’s Catch-22,” said Catherine Lewis, a board member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. “As American citizens and residents of Maine, we have the right to protect ourselves. There have been instances of home invasions where people have felt the need for protection.The federal government is unfairly treating cannabis as a more dangerous substance than it actually is, according to activists. They say marijuana users are being deprived of a constitutional right. The push is on to get the feds to reschedule cannabis, or legalize it entirely, to resolve the issue.
“To say they cannot possess a firearm for their own protection is really wrong of the federal government,” Lewis said. “I think there will be a huge outcry, as there should be. One by one our constitutional rights are being stripped from the American people.”
“This is an affront to our constitutional rights and hopefully other Second Amendment groups will stand with us in calling for an end to this practice, but it will likely require the rescheduling of marijuana by Congress,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for Marijuana Laws (NORML).