Washington, DC: Federal law prohibits a person from legally possessing a firearm if they use marijuana, even if he or she uses cannabis for medicinal purposes in accordance with state law, according to a memo issued last week by the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
The ATF’s September 21 memo, titled ‘OPEN LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSEES,’ states: “Federal law … prohibits any person who is an ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance … from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition. Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.”
The memo affirms: “Therefore, 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. … Further, if you are aware that the potential transferee (of a firearm) is in possession of a card authorizing the possession of marijuana under state law, then you have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance. As such, you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to the person.”
Noteworthy, to date no state or federal court has yet ruled whether medical marijuana patients are disqualified to own a firearm.
While campaigning for the Presidency, Barack Obama had pledged that he would “not … be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this (the medical marijuana) issue.”
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.