By David Codrea
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has received a number of inquiries regarding the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes’ and its applicability to Federal firearms laws,” Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services wrote in a Sept. 21, 2011 “OPEN LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSEES.”
Why the inquiries?
“A number of States have passed legislation allowing under State law the use or possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” Herbert explained. “During a firearms transaction, a potential transferee may advise you that he or she is a user of medical marijuana, or present a medical marijuana card as identification or proof of residency.”
And if he or she does? That’s where Federal law comes in. US Code classifies anyone who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled…from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition… and there are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by State law.”
Further, Herbert advises, it is “unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance.”
What this means is such persons are required to answer “yes” on ATF Form 4473 to the question “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” even if their state law says they are not. And if the dealer is aware that “a potential transferee” has a card “authorizing the possession and use of marijuana under State law, then [they] … may not transfer firearms or ammunition to the person, even if the person answered ‘no’.”
Which opens the door to questions such as what if a person is already a gun owner before obtaining a medical marijuana card? Will they automatically become felons if they don’t turn them in first? What if the person is a concealed carry permit holder?
It leads to other questions such as are there any studies showing state-sanctioned marijuana users pose a greater risk for violence, criminality or negligent gun use than non-users? Are they more or less dangerous than alcohol abusers? How about <I>legal<I> users of controlled substances that also impair patients?
And why the silence from the anti-defense lobby, always screaming about “home rule” when local gun laws are relaxed by higher authorities? Medical marijuana may be controversial, with some claiming it’s just a way for potheads to game the system and others swearing it’s indispensible in managing the agony of cancer, but regardless, affected states have lawfully enacted their statutes.
Which is why “gun lobby” silence on this is troubling. Friend, colleague and senior editor of Gun Week Dave Workman explained why to The Great Falls Tribune: “The media—and the gun prohibitionist lobby in particular—would say the gun lobby wants to arm drug addicts.”
He’s right. But they’re going to attack us whatever we do.