Court rules no guns for medical marijuana cardholders

Alaska’s hunters and concealed carry holders can’t continue to pack iron if they hold a medical marijuana card, according to a recent court decision.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on a Nevada case on Aug. 31 that upholds previous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives order to gun sellers not to sell firearms to state medical marijuana cardholders.

Cardholders meet the definition for “unlawful drug users,” according to the ATF guidance and the court decision affirming it.

The case concerned a Nevada woman, S. Rowan Wilson, who attempted to buy a gun but was prevented from doing so by the storeowner, who knew she had a medical marijuana card. Nevada is one of 24 states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Wilson’s challenge was complex, but the decision distilled to a Second Amendment rights denial.

“The district court concluded, however, that Wilson’s Second Amendment challenge failed under our decision in United States v. Dugan, 657 F.3d 998 (9th Cir. 2011),” reads the court opinion. “In Dugan, we held that the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of unlawful drug users to bear arms, id. at 999–1000, in the same way that it does not protect the rights of ‘felons and the mentally ill,’ Heller, 554 U.S. at 626–27. The Government argues that if the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of unlawful drug users to bear arms, it must not protect any possible rights of unlawful drug users to purchase firearms or of firearm dealers to sell to unlawful drug users.”

The court affirmed the ATF orders and Wilson’s status as an unlawful drug user.

On Sept. 21, 2011, the ATF issued an “Open Letter to All Federal Firearms Licensees” stating that “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

This answers a question Sen. Lisa Murkowski had on March 2 when she sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking Lynch to reexamine federal gun regulations conflicting with state laws where marijuana is legal.

As of Sept. 1, Murkowski’s office has still not received a reply from Lynch.  

In December 2015, Alaska had 730 federal firearms license holders, about one for every 1,000 residents. According to a Columbia University study released in June 2015, Alaska also has the highest per capita gun ownership in the nation; 61.7 percent of Alaskans own one or more firearms.

Alaska also has more than 1,000 medical marijuana cardholders. This number, however, is an inaccurate metric for marijuana usage, as state laws have not allowed for marijuana cultivation or distribution until recreational use was approved by a voter initiative in 2014.

DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]


09/02/2016 - 12:01pm