I am frequently asked if a card for medical marijuana (MMJ/MMID) or cannabis bans someone from legally possessing and/or buying guns. Before we get into that, let’s touch on the history of marijuana and dispel some of the smoke and mirrors surrounding this plant and its derivatives.
A History of Cannabis
The plant originally named Cannabis sativa by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 has been used for many thousands of years for much more than just getting people high. Though it is the most used recreational drug on Earth, it is also illegal in many parts of the world.
The positive aspects of the cannabis plant have been overshadowed by how it has been misused or recreationally over-used in the last century. But in the past, the versatile cannabis plant has been used for fuel, paint, food, medicine and religious purposes. Some versions of the Christian Bible also list cannabis as an ingredient in the holy anointing oil.
In the early 1900s, American states began restricting and labeling cannabis as a poison. In 1911, Massachusetts was the first state to outlaw its use. Many other acts and initiatives followed, including the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act (1914), the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act (1934) and the Marihuana Tax Act (1937). There is a history of our government trying to control, limit access to and tax the sale of it.
Recreational use was glorified from the 60s through the 80s, negatively influencing the perception of cannabis and its use for its medicinal properties.
Are Medical Marijuana Cards a Recipe for Infringement?
Questions often arise from those looking to obtain a pistol license in one of the 26 New York counties where I teach the required handgun safety course. I also get questions while traveling the country teaching my multi-state — Utah and Florida — firearms pre-licensing course. Those who already have a license or who own guns seem to inquire as to their available options on this controversial topic.
The short answer is no! Someone who holds a card allowing him or her to purchase a cannabis/marijuana prescription in his or her state is breaking federal law. How is it a crime if a state allows its possession? The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers marijuana a Schedule I drug — the same as LSD, heroin or ecstasy. Since 1972, there have been proposals to have it removed from this drug list; none have succeeded. However, hemp and hemp-derived products were federally legalized by the 2018 Farm Act. That officially removed it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473 requires that an FFL have a purchaser of a firearm complete it prior to the FFL doing a NICS background check. Section 11e on the form asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Then it lists this warning: “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
So technically, someone with a medical marijuana card who fills a prescription could pass a state/county background check and be issued a pistol/firearms license. But the individual could not complete the 4473 Form without lying. (Just an FYI, lying on the form is a crime punishable as a felony.)
CBD Further Complicates Things
These days, it seems like everyone is into CBD products. But there is a lot of gray area when it comes to CBD. A quick search on the web shows a confusing myriad of options and no clear-cut answer as to the legality or quality of these products. The biggest problem is that they may or may not show up in drug testing. My advice? If you work for a company that does mandatory and/or random drug tests, do not take the chance of losing your job by using any form of cannabis products.
As of April 2019, per DISA Global Solutions, 35 states have passed laws allowing cannabis prescriptions. There are 11 states that allow recreational smoking of marijuana. Currently, many states have bills introduced to expand the use and/or start the baby steps of making cannabis legal.
Being a foster parent and law enforcement officer, I see how even “legal” drugs have changed society, with many being a gateway to more addictive illegal or legal drugs. On one hand, seeing how these natural products have helped people with pain makes me question why they are illegal in the first place — especially as there are legal and more powerful mind-altering and addictive opiates (such as morphine) fully legal and prescribed daily.
The information on Form 4473 and medical marijuana cards are cut and dry. However, all my research about CBD products was conflicting and confusing. I reached out to my ATF contacts for some clarity and received an official word from the DEA. The answer? A cannabis product may not contain more than 0.3 percent THC to be legal and not considered a controlled substance.
Also, intent is a factor. If you unknowingly purchase a product that has deceptive marketing and/or more than the federally allowed percentage, then your intent was not to break the law. However, that’s not to say you can’t or won’t be prosecuted.
As a staunch Second Amendment supporter and disabled U.S. Army veteran, I struggled with this topic — at least until I did all the research and saw how someone can still legally bear arms and get the benefits of pain management without the mind-altering side effects of THC.
I tell my students that if you are too drunk to drive, you are too drunk to shoot straight. The same should be said for legal drugs that affect your ability to rationally think and could slow your response time to a threat of death or grave bodily harm. Just because you are not breaking the law doesn’t mean a rational person or persons — a jury of your peers or public opinion — would find your decision to carry a firearm while impaired reasonable.
Keep in mind that your state issuing you a firearms license and a medical marijuana card doesn’t mean it’s pro-gun. If you have both cards, you are listed in two databases that conflict with each other under federal law.
All of this may be a moot point if the U.S. Senate Bill S.2227 or U.S. Senate Bill S.597 becomes law. Until then, I suggest that you use wisdom in your decision making and pray that my research will help you do just that.