Feds Add Marijuana Warning to Gun Application

Just in case it wasn’t clear, the federal government really wants you to know that if you use marijuana — even for medical purposes in accordance with state law — you can’t buy a gun.

Last week the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) updated the form that people must fill out when purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer to explicitly state that marijuana use of any kind is disqualifying.

For years, the application, known as Form 4473, has asked, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

But the growing number of states passing laws to allow use of cannabis has created confusion about what, exactly, the meaning of “unlawful” is.

So starting on January 16, all Federal Firearms License holders who sell guns will have to use a new form, which includes this explicit warning:

“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.”

The form’s drug question is a result of a federal law that makes it illegal for anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance…to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”

The provision was the subject of a recent federal court case in which a Nevada woman, S. Rowan Wilson, sued after a gun shop owner who knew she was a registered medical marijuana patient refused to sell her a firearm. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against her in August, upholding the ban.

Increasingly, the prohibition is drawing opposition even from people who aren’t exactly known as cannabis enthusiasts.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, voted against her state’s marijuana legalization initiative when it was on the ballot in 2014. But after it passed, she began pressuring the federal government to stop discriminating against her constituents who happen to use marijuana.

“It is my judgement that denying Americans the personal Second Amendment right to possess firearms as articulated by the Supreme Court…for mere use of marijuana pursuant to state law is arbitrarily overbroad and should be narrowed,” she wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

And Donald Trump Jr., son of the president-elect, called the court ruling on the ban “another chip off the block of Liberty.”

However, one gun rights advocacy group — the most prominent one — is nowhere to be seen in the debate about firearms restrictions on people who use marijuana. The National Rifle Association (NRA) declined to respond to the August federal court ruling. And NRA didn’t even acknowledge requests for comment from the Wall Street Journal, which ran an article on the issue this month.

But as more states continue to change their marijuana laws, the firearms ban for cannabis consumers seems likely to emerge as a key Second Amendment issue, one which NRA and more lawmakers who favor gun rights will feel increasing pressure to address.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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