Guns or Grass: A New Wrinkle in Legalization of Marijuana

Many states were caught off guard when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to the Obama era “turn the other cheek” policy when it comes to enforcement of marijuana prohibitions. Now the Department of Justice had clarified its stance on another related issue, one which is sure to draw more attention. Officials made it clear that those who use marijuana, even if legalized in their state, are prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

My home state of Pennsylvania recently passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana use. Unlike other states Keystone state residents will not be allowed to light up, permitted use will be for medical purposes only and require the use of approved oils, creams etc. However, the change has brought to light a problem many other states have realized is out of their hands. Under current Federal law marijuana is still prohibited and, because it is classified as a controlled substance, users are also prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

While many states, including Pennsylvania, promised residents that once marijuana was legalized at the state level they would not then look to collect firearms that do not apply to Federal officials. Nor does it protect users from being denied when making a purchase – especially if they truthfully answer the application questions or their state reports registered users via the system used for background checks.

Officials in Pennsylvania recently announced that the state registry will not be linked to the same one used for a background check at the time of firearms purchases. This means that if a user of medical marijuana does not disclose their use it is unlikely they will be denied. Of course, this means they will have to lie on the questionnaire, which holds the possibility of being charged with a very serious crime if that is ever discovered.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives spokesperson was very clear when asked how this is viewed by the agency responsible for investigating and enforcing such violations. “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her states has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medical purpose … is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition” Various federal prosecutors have stated that each case will be reviewed on its individual merits, of course, the recent guidance of AG Sessions leaves the door wide open for prosecution and the law is very clear. A 2016 case out of San Francisco upheld the ban and, if it can survive in that court, it is unlikely to be shot down by more conservative courts elsewhere.

Bottom line – the feds have determined grass and guns do not mix. If you choose to take a hit you may see the feds taking your guns.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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