While many states have voted to legalize medical cannabis, many voters might not know that legalization comes with some limitations. The law states that you cannot have both a concealed carry license and a medical marijuana card.
So can medical cannabis patients own guns? No.
Even though medical marijuana has been voted into legality in most states, it’s still viewed as a Schedule 1 drug by the Federal government. Thus, since Federal laws override state laws, you cannot own a gun if you have a medical marijuana card.
Many people wonder, “Can you own a gun and have a medical card?” It’s not difficult to guess why this is so curious when considering American gun culture.
Regardless of whether you are for or against America’s gun culture, many Americans believe that gun ownership is a fundamental right. Firearms are relatively easy to access, with the right to bear arms listed as a constitutional right. And let’s not forget about the well-funded and incredibly influential gun lobbying that occurs in the U.S.
All of this has made purchasing guns in the U.S. a straightforward process.
According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, it estimates that America has 393 million registered firearms. This averages at more than one gun per person.
Even with this staggering statistic showing the prevalence of gun ownership in the U.S., many wonder, “How can you own a gun with a medical card?”
Purchasing one before you get your MMJ card or buying a gun illegally are the only ways. Both of these methods do not come recommended as they violate Federal law.
With this in mind, firearm purchases still have limitations. For instance, someone with mental health issues, violent criminal histories, or a medical marijuana card cannot purchase a firearm.
MMJ Patients and Firearms: Why Can’t Medical Cannabis Patients Own Firearms?
Why can’t medical cannabis patients own firearms? Believe it or not, this has to do with legislation from over five decades ago.
Even though MMJ patients and firearms don’t seem to go hand in hand, the most common question is, “Why?” Even if patients follow their state’s laws to obtain a medical marijuana card legally, they’re still put in the same category as firearm prohibited people because of The Gun Control Act of 1968.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits people from possessing guns or ammunition if they use or are addicted to any controlled substances. This, of course, includes cannabis.
A 2011 open letter drafted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reiterated the organization’s position that the act from 1968 remains in effect, regardless of the changes in America’s societal attitude about cannabis. The letter outlines that anyone using cannabis, regardless of legality at the state level, is qualified as an “unlawful user of” the controlled substance. Therefore, these individuals aren’t allowed to own a gun.
This same letter clarifies that possession of a medical marijuana card is a reasonable cause to suspect that the card owner is an illegal marijuana patient breaking the law. Even if the patient obtained the card to use medical marijuana per the state law, the patient would be treated as a criminal.
Thus far, many patients who would benefit from having an MMJ card have not applied because they do not want to give up their right to purchase a firearm. Since their MMJ card would be registered in a government database, a simple background check (required to purchase a gun) would flag the patient as a suspected consumer of cannabis.
Can a Medical Cannabis Patient Have a Firearm for Home Protection?
This is where gun ownership as an MMJ patient gets tricky. Legally speaking, the ATF will permit medical cannabis patients to have a gun in their house if their spouse is not a cannabis consumer. The spouse would need to purchase the firearm and keep it locked away, ensuring the MMJ card holder does not have access to it.
Problems with Enforcement of Concealed Carry Gun Laws & Medical Cannabis
Even though the 1968 Gun Control Act’s language is relatively straightforward, enforcing it has proven to be virtually impossible with legalized cannabis becoming so popular. For instance, the Federal law states that gun owners cannot be allowed around people who consume or grow cannabis.
This aspect of the law was meant to create sentence-enhancing criminal charges for drug dealers carrying firearms. But with armed security guards placed in dispensaries to ensure safety, cannabis transportation happening throughout legalized states, and money transfers occurring from stores, many people are technically violating the law merely for working in the cannabis sector.
Officials operating in legalized states don’t always enforce these laws to protect the industry. Without the ability to safeguard dispensaries and other legal cannabis operations, it would be all too easy for criminals to take advantage of the situation as the ATF’s strict regulations and clear legal language aren’t deterring enough.
Why Can Recreational Cannabis Consumers Own Guns, But Not Medical Cannabis Patients?
Suppose you don’t have a cannabis-related charge on your record and live in a state with recreational cannabis, you can easily smoke cannabis, head over to a licensed gun shop, check “no” on the Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? question, and receive a firearm within five days.
But, even if you’re a recreational cannabis consumer, if you’re caught with a firearm and are around cannabis or known cannabis producers, you’d be in violation of the 1968 Gun Rights Act. This is the truth, regardless of whether your state permits recreational cannabis use.
If you’re already a gun owner and are applying for a medical marijuana card, the law gets even more convoluted. You cannot purchase more guns, but at this point, there’s still no clear instruction regarding what to do about the guns already in your possession. If you were to give them up, you could open yourself up to prosecution for using cannabis around them.
Now the question is, “Can you own a gun after your medical card expires?” The answer is, “yes.”