Judge Rules Gun Ban on Marijuana Users Unconstitutional

February 20, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Since multiple states have started to legalize marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes, there have been criticisms on how to handle those who wish to purchase firearms. Although the Second Amendment implies the legality of owning a gun in America, the Supreme Court has maintained that individuals who use marijuana in any form cannot purchase or own a firearm.

That is, however, until a U.S. Judge just dismissed a case against an Oklahoma man who was found with a gun and medical marijuana. This article will provide information on the case, along with the federal and state regulations on purchasing a firearm with a medical marijuana card.

What was the Incident?

In May 2022, Jared Michael Harrison was arrested by Lawton police in Oklahoma after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop. When the officers searched his vehicle, they found a loaded revolver and traces of marijuana.

When questioned about the items in his car, Harrison informed the officers that he was on his way to work at a medical marijuana dispensary. However, he did not have the mandatory state-issued medical marijuana card. Harrison was charged with violating the firearms ban.

Harrison’s attorneys argued that his Second Amendment right to bear arms had been violated by the federal ban on marijuana users and firearms. Specifically, the attorneys claimed that the law focused on drug users or addicts, which is considered inconsistent with traditional firearms regulation. Harrison’s lawyers cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen case, known for setting standards in regard to the Second Amendment.

The federal prosecutors in Harrison’s case argued that the law is in place to disarm “presumptively risky persons” which includes convicted felons, mentally ill people, and those under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.

Once the case reached the courtroom, U.S. District Judge Wyrick sided with Harrison and his attorneys. The judge claimed that the prosecution’s argument that the defendant’s medical marijuana status was the base for the State to strip him of his rights, a move which he considered unconstitutional.

“For all the reasons given above, this is not a constitutionally permissible means of disarming Harrison,” Judge Wyrick stated.

In addition, the judge claimed that marijuana doesn’t have the same characteristics as those illegal activities which have been subjected to firearm use in the past. The judge also noted that Oklahoma has made medical marijuana legal, despite it remaining illegal under federal law.

Harrison’s indictment has been dismissed by Judge Wyrick, and the U.S. Department has yet to respond. However, it is likely that they will appeal the ruling.  

What is the Second Amendment?

Stated in the Second Amendment is the right for individuals to “keep and bear Arms, [and that this right] shall not be infringed.” However, under the Gun Control Act of 1968, it is prohibited for any person who is considered an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from possessing or owning a firearm.

Although various states have made marijuana legal for medical and recreational purposes, it is still listed as a Schedule I substance under federal law. Interestingly, any substance under Schedule I is considered highly addictive, and not used for any medical purpose.

On September 21, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) sent out a letter to licensed firearm dealers addressing individuals with medical marijuana cards. ATF declared that the firearms dealers couldn’t sell any firearms to those with medical marijuana cards.

In addition, on the paperwork form to purchase a firearm, ATF added an additional question asking if the applicant is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana.” Those who marked “yes” would be ineligible for firearm purchase, and any person found lying after marking “no” could face charges for lying under oath.

The form also gives a warning that regardless of each individual state’s stance on legal recreational and medical marijuana, it shall still remain illegal under federal law.

The issue with the strict federal rules on firearms and marijuana are forcing American citizens to choose between preserving their right to bear arms, or between using their prescribed medication. With the current restrictions, there are around 5.4 million people with medical marijuana cards who cannot legally purchase a firearm.

Florida’s Stance on Marijuana and Guns

Florida law prohibits the purchase of firearms by individuals who are “unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substance.” This includes individuals who hold a medical marijuana card, as marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Therefore, it is against both state and federal law for any person in Florida with a medical marijuana card to purchase a firearm.

When purchasing a firearm in Florida, the prospective buyer must first fill out an ATF Form 4478. Among other questions, the form includes a section where the buyer must check “yes” or “no” for being considered an “unlawful user” of an illicit drug. Since marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance on the federal and Florida Drug Schedule, this includes marijuana—even for medical use.

To find out more about Florida’s continuous clash between cannabis and firearms, read our page here.

If you have been accused of an unlawful firearm purchase or need legal guidance in the realm of criminal law, we highly recommend seeking out a defense attorney in your area.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

For those who have been accused of a crime in Florida, we understand that navigating the legal world is both intimidating and stressful. When going through such a trying time, it is best to work with a skilled defense attorney. An experienced attorney will make sure none of your rights are violated. An experienced attorney will put in the time and effort to build a strong defense for your case. An experienced attorney at Pumphrey Law Firm is here to help.

Don Pumphrey and his team have worked on a variety of cases involving criminal offenses. We have worked with clients all across Florida from all ages and all walks of life. Our team will do our best to provide you and your case with top-quality care. For a free consultation regarding your case, contact us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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