Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, September 1, 2016


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Medical Marijuana Users Can Be Banned From Buying Guns—Ninth Circuit


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


A federal ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana card holders does not violate the Second Amendment, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

It came in a lawsuit filed by S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada woman who said she tried to buy a firearm for self-defense in 2011 after obtaining a medical marijuana card. The gun store refused, citing the federal rule banning the sale of firearms to illegal drug users.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, although Nevada, Oregon, and California, among states within the Ninth Circuit, allow use of the drug with a physician’s recommendation, and Alaska and Washington permit recreational use.

A proposal to allow recreational use will be on the California ballot in November, and a similar proposal will be voted on in Arizona after that state’s highest court rejected the last legal challenge to the measure yesterday.

Wilson, the plaintiff in the Nevada case, said she was not a marijuana user, but obtained the card in part as an expression of support for marijuana legalization. She challenged guidance issued by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2011 that said gun sellers should assume people with medical marijuana cards use the drug and not sell them firearms.

The Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993, sets forth nine categories of persons who cannot possess firearms, including “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance,” as defined in federal law.

Senior District Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation on the Ninth Circuit, said it was reasonable for federal regulators to assume a medical marijuana card holder was more likely to use the drug.

The court also said Congress had reasonably concluded that marijuana and other drug use “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

Wilson’s attorney, Chaz Rainey, said there needs to be more consistency in the application of the Second Amendment. He planned to appeal the decision and his options include submitting the appeal to the same panel of judges that issued the ruling, a larger panel of the circuit court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no fly list your constitutional right is still protected,” he said.

The Ninth Circuit also rejected other constitutional challenges to the ban that were raised by Wilson, including her argument that her gun rights were being stripped without due process. Wilson, Rakoff said, “does not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in simultaneously holding a registry card and purchasing a firearm.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the idea that marijuana users were more prone to violence is a fallacy.

“Responsible adults who use cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states ought to receive the same legal rights and protections as other citizens,” he said.

Alex Kreit, a marijuana law expert at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, said the ruling was significant — but may not be the last time the 9th Circuit addresses medical marijuana and gun rights.

“It seems like the court did not foreclose the possibility of a challenge by actual medical marijuana users that they shouldn’t be lumped with other drug users in terms of concerns about violence,” he said.

The case is Wilson v. Lynch, 14-15700.


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