Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws
Many people in Maryland own firearms for proper reasons such as hobby, sport or protection. However, law-abiding gun owners who register to be cannabis patients are considered criminals in the eyes of the federal government.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prevents cannabis users from purchasing firearms, since it restricts sales to anyone who “is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” As long as THC is seen as a Schedule I controlled substance, gun-owners need to take precautions and make sure they understand the law.
Does Marijuana Show Up on Background Checks?
In Maryland, background checks are required for firearm purchases. However, one’s registration as a medical cannabis patient is private information protected by HIPAA laws. Cannabis patient data is held by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland. Dispensaries also have access to this information, but they cannot release it without patient approval. No one else will know you are a patient unless you reveal your medical cannabis patient status.
Some states do put medical marijuana patient information in a database that shows up on background checks. Pennsylvania releases this information even though their program is also part of the Department of Health.
Green Health Docs employees have contacted the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in the past months about firearms, but have yet to receive a definitive answer regarding marijuana users and firearms. Nonetheless, based on the current law, it should not show up on a background check and there’s nothing indicating that will change in the near future.
Beware the New Firearm Transaction Form
So why not just omit information about marijuana use if it doesn’t come up on a background check? When purchasing a firearm, prospective buyers fill out ATF Form 4473 which has a recently amended question asking:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? 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.”
Lying on this form just to be able to purchase more firearms constitutes perjury and amounts to a felony under federal law. Some people also get around this by purchasing firearms at gun shows, which do not require background checks. While gun law enforcement is currently fairly lax, it’s still a risk that many people would be uncomfortable taking and one that Green Health Docs does not endorse.
Second Amendment Protection
What if you’ve already been denied the right to purchase a firearm because of your medical marijuana use? While it seems like something the courts would overrule, someone has already tried. A Nevada cannabis patient got the issue brought all the way to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit but was ruled against. Ultimately, the federal law regarding firearms does not violate a cannabis patient’s 2nd Amendment rights.
Will they take your guns?
Some states interpret federal law more strictly and require that cannabis patients give up their firearms completely. Hawaii demands that patients confiscate guns within 30 days of becoming legal. For Maryland patients this isn’t an issue since state law doesn’t address prior gun ownership. While they may not require prior owners to hand in their firearms, Federal law does restrict possession of a firearm for cannabis users. This poses a risk if a cannabis patient is ever charged for another crime and the firearm possession comes up.
With Attorney General Jeff Sessions grandstanding about marijuana there’s always a possibility that Maryland becomes as strict as other states. This would be especially unfortunate for the chronic pain patients who would have to resume heavy opioid use if they wanted to keep their firearms and get sufficient pain relief. At the very least, for patients who require the services of caregivers, their caregivers don’t have to worry about their 2nd amendment rights being affected. Even in Pennsylvania, caregivers are not affected by the law as long as they are not patients themselves. Despite the overwhelming public support for medical cannabis, it’s important to stay informed as marijuana laws evolve to avoid legal complications.
Green Health Docs will continue to research the firearm issue and will update our patients and readers as more information becomes available. We also regularly broadcast our educational sessions on Youtube and Facebook. For more information or to learn how to become a legal medical cannabis patient, call or text us at 240-356-1000.
Please note: neither the author nor any employees at Green Health Docs are lawyers or experts in gun laws.