Marijuana is one of the most convoluted legal minefields in the US right now. States and the federal government are disagreeing all over the place about why — and if — you should be allowed to use the drug. More confusion over a simple drug issue is bad enough, of course, but some people are warning that this vagueness is also a threat to our Second Amendment rights. Are they correct?
- Medical marijuana is now legal in 34 US states. If you live in one of them, and you have a medical condition that’s recognized as being helped by cannabinoids, you can get a card and legally buy marijuana (although, exactly what you can buy and where you can buy it varies between states).
- In 11 of these states, you can also legally buy recreational marijuana — in other words, you can just use it to get high.
- Right away there’s a problem here because whatever the laws of your state say, federal law is clear and simple. Marijuana, and any extract of its psychoactive component, THC, is a Schedule I controlled drug. You can’t legally use, grow, sell or even possess it. The penalty for violating that law is up to 10 years in prison.
- From there, it’s a short step to the Second Amendment. The Gun Control Act of 1968 says that any unlawful user of a controlled substance isn’t allowed to buy or own a gun. This is federal law — just like the law that says marijuana is a controlled substance that can’t be lawfully used.
- A lot of gun laws come from state governments, but the federal government sets the framework the states can work inside. Federal law on this matter is totally clear; if you’re using marijuana, even if it’s medical marijuana that’s legal in your state, you’re using a controlled substance, therefore, you’re not allowed to own a gun.
- There’s no wiggle room in this. If you buy a gun from a licensed dealer you need to complete ATF Form 4473, and this has a question that cuts right to the chase:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
- You need to sign the Form 4473 to certify that your answers are true. If you answer yes to this one, you won’t be allowed to buy a gun. If you falsely answer “No,” you’ve just committed a federal felony — and if you get caught and convicted you won’t be able to own a gun ever again.
- Some states — Illinois, for example — are saying that now they’ve legalized the drug, any marijuana-related criminal records will be wiped. That doesn’t matter to the federal government, though. If you’re a marijuana user you’re breaking federal law and you’ve lost your right to own guns.
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