Gun Sales Banned to Medical Marijuana Card Holders
A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a ban on gun sales to individuals who possess a medical cannabis card, saying that such a ban does not violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in a 3-0 decision that the defendant, a Nevada woman named S. Rowan Wilson, could not purchase a gun while also possessing a medical cannabis card.
“It is beyond dispute that illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior,” read the opinion written by federal New York judge Jed Rakoff, who has been assigned to the appeals panel temporarily.
Rakoff went on to note that, while consumers of medical cannabis are less likely to commit violence than users of other illegal substances, the courts are nonetheless supportive of the government’s declaration that “illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are more likely to be involved in violent crimes.”
The ruling stemmed from the case of Wilson, who possessed a medical cannabis card and was refused a request to purchase a gun in the fall of 2011. Wilson claimed that she did not consume medical cannabis regularly, but instead was an active supporter of Nevada’s medical cannabis regime and accepted a medical cannabis card as a political statement. Medical cannabis has been legally available in Nevada since 2011.
According to the appeals court, however, Wilson’s First and Second Amendment rights to free speech and gun ownership were outweighed by the state’s responsibility to protect against gun violence.
The use of medical cannabis is legal in 25 states and the District of Columbia. However, those who use and are addicted to illegal drugs have been legally barred from the purchase and possession of firearms since Congressional passage of a 1968 law.
Wilson’s lawyer, Charles Rainey, blasted the ruling.
“This is a nonsense policy that really was not aimed at restricting violent people from buying guns, but was aimed strictly at quelling a political movement,” he said. “We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no-fly list your constitutional right is still protected.
Legal experts are ambivalent about the possible long-term consequences of the decision. Cannabis-law expert Alex Kreit of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego says that more rulings on the intersection of gun rights and cannabis law could be coming in the future.
“It seems like the court did not foreclose the possibility of a challenge by actual medical marijuana users that they shouldn’t be lumped with other drug users in terms of concerns about violence,” says Kreit.
The court’s decision is not the only recent expansive court ruling from out West to clamp down on the rights of legal cannabis users: An Arizona Supreme Court ruling in July found that the odor of cannabis was enough to justify a police search. In its opinion, the Court stated that cannabis odor “in most circumstances will warrant a reasonable person believing there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime is present.”