In 2017 recreational marijuana will be legal in 8 states and in DC: California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, DC, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
So-called “medical” marijuana is legal in 28 states as of last count. At least 7 more legalized it on November 8 but those laws might not be in effect until next year. You’d have to check, I didn’t. The scare quotes on “medical” are justified because marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use” [18 U.S.C § 922(g)(3)] and if it did smoking it would not be the prescribed delivery system.
But that’s not what this post if about. It’s about the effect legal weed, medical or otherwise, has on your ability to own or possess firearms, or to buy new firearms.
ATF Form 4473, which legal buyers of guns must fill out, asks if you are “an unlawful user, or addicted to, marijuana” or any other controlled substance. A yes answer means you can’t complete the purchase or transfer. An untruthful “no” answer means you have just commited a federal felony. Federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
If you have a medical marijuana card it will probably show up on the background check and you won’t be able to buy or take possession of the gun. Even if you claim you’re not a user but just have a card, you can’t legally buy a gun.
What about the guns you already own? If you have a medical marijuana card you are in jeopardy of being charged with illegal possession of firearms, a federal felony. If you are a user of recreational marijuana, even if it’s legal in your state, the result is the same.
Unlike having a felony conviction or having been involuntarily committed for a mental illness, using marijuana does not result in a lifetime ban. You can regain your right to own or possess the guns you already have, and to buy new ones. All you have to do is cancel your medical marijuana card and/or stop smoking ganja.
Under current federal law mixing dope and guns is a bad idea. Lets say the U.S. Congress changes the law and removes marijuana from being classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. What then? Then you’ll be able to used marijuana in states where it is legal, but if you do so in states that have not legalized it you’d still be prohibited from having or buying guns. The federal prohibition applies whether it’s federal or state law that makes it unlawful.
Let’s say marijuana becomes legal everywhere, state and federal. Then you could certainly toke up and still own all the guns you want, and buy as many as you want. But would that be wise? We know that a blood test will reveal past marijuana use for up to 30 days after you last smoked it. The effect wears off in probably less than 24 hours, but the trace evidence remains long afterwards. What if you were attacked and used your gun to defend yourself? Or, God forbid, you have a gun accident in which you or someone else is injured, or someone else is killed?
That’s when state prosecutors and/or plaintiff’s lawyers will be taking a hard look at what happened and your role in causing it. They will also delve into everything about you, your habits, your state of mind and physical sobriety at the time, and your background. Having traces of marijuana in your system will give them the opportunity to claim you might have been under the influence of it at the time of the self defense shooting or accident.
Bottom line is this: Guns and dope, legal or not, don’t go together.