Fact Check: Can Medical Marijuana Affect Your 2A Rights?

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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