Weed and Guns: What are the Weed and Gun Laws? Can You Have Your Medical Card and Gun License?
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What do guns and weed have in common? They are both heavily regulated by the government. They are also both highly contentious legally because of the difference of federal vs. state laws.
Someone may be able to buy a gun at any of their local superstores while some can’t buy weed at all. But can you have both?
Gun control laws are one of the most controversial topics of our day. From the rise of mass shootings to heavy debate over the Second Amendment people are on both sides of the divide. The same is true for the legalization of marijuana.
Regardless of where you fall on these hot topics, it still stands that gun ownership and medical marijuana are important legal issues that can change with the day. How do they relate to each other?Can you buy or use guns if you have a medical marijuana card? How about a concealed weapons permit?
While marijuana legalization is branching out across the US, it’s still federally illegal. Given weed and gun laws, can you legally own a gun if you have a medical marijuana license?
With both marijuana and gun laws, they can vary by state, this post will offer you a general understanding of where the laws stand, what your rights might be, and answers to some frequently asked questions.
Can You Have Your Medical Card And Gun License?
The short answer is no. Marijuana, namely any cannabis plant with over .3% THC, is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. You cannot use or own a gun and use a controlled substance…ever.
Based on the Gun Control Act of 1968, the federal regulations for Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms dictate you are not allowed to carry a gun if you are under the influence of a controlled substance or a regular user of a controlled substance.
Technically, by the letter of the law, you cannot use a controlled substance and own a gun. By using a drug other than medically prescribed, you are giving up your right to use a gun. That being said, this can be hard to prove.
Federal law defines a person using a controlled substance as:
“A person who uses a controlled substance and has lost the power of self-control with reference to the use of controlled substance; and any person who is a current user of a controlled substance in a manner other than as prescribed by a licensed physician. . . An inference of current use may be drawn from evidence of a recent use or possession of a controlled substance or a pattern of use or possession that reasonably covers the present time, e.g., a conviction for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year; multiple arrests for such offenses within the past 5 years if the most recent arrest occurred within the past year; or persons found through a drug test to use a controlled substance unlawfully, provided that the test was administered within the past year.” 27 C.F.R. § 478.11.
When purchasing a gun, you are required to fill out a Firearms Transaction Record. One question directly asks you and warns:
“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.”
The legalization of medical marijuana is on the state level but marijuana has not been decriminalized or legalized federally. By having a medical marijuana card, you are admitting you use medical marijuana, which federally is a controlled substance and illegal.
The ATF even released a letter clarifying that even when using legal marijuana you are using a controlled substance therefore in violation of your rights to carry a gun. This would make you what the law defines as an unlawful user of a firearm.
A lot of this is a don’t ask, don’t tell situation. Purchasing a gun can be very easy in some states, with some sellers not doing background checks. This can be a non-issue for some patients/ gun owners unless it’s proven in court of law or becomes a criminal issue.
Technically, anyone who has ever used a hard drug or controlled substance should relinquish their gun license and gun. By having a medical marijuana card you have proof you’re a regular user of a controlled substance.
Again, if you were stopped by police and found carrying a gun or your weapon was discharged and would fail a drug test you could face heavy charges, fines, or even jail time.
Ultimately, the issue is if you get “caught.” You may not be stopped from buying a gun or even renewing your gun license. The issue is how much legal trouble you will face if you are pulled over by police in possession of a gun and marijuana, discharge your firearm, or are convicted of a gun-based crime.
How exactly would the government know that you registered for a medical marijuana card?
Photo by Yash Lucid
Does a Medical Marijuana Card Show Up On Background Check?
Part of why this isn’t more directly regulated by the government is a medical marijuana card does not typically show up on a background check. Like so much of your medical chart, your privacy is covered under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
HIPAA can protect your medical privacy even from potential employers and the government. This may not be guaranteed and can potentially vary depending on your state and the nature of the background check.
The only clear exception would be a background check for a federal job. Both because marijuana is federally illegal and some security checks or testing for security clearance could potentially require this information.
Changes to Marijuana & Gun Laws
The issue of using legal marijuana and being able to carry a gun is a contentious issue. It is being handled differently by different states.
The cases of Wilson vs. Lynch and Fried et al. v. Garland has explored the validity of these laws. A key issue, as argued in Fried v. Garland, is “whether the physical and/or psychological effects of medical marijuana on a state-law-abiding patient render them sufficiently dangerous or violent” to deny their Second Amendment rights.
Some states are directly tackling the 2nd Amendment in their legalization of marijuana. Mississippi included a provision in its medical marijuana statute stating patients “shall not be denied the right to own, purchase or possess a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition based solely on his or her status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver.”
As of February 2023, US district judge, Patrick Wyrick, ruled in an Oklahoma court that denying a legal marijuana user their 2nd Amendment rights was unconstitutional.
Can You Have A Medical Card And A Concealed Weapons Permit?
Again, the answer is no with regards to having a gun and a medical marijuana card. Regardless of if you’ve had a concealed weapons permit, gun license, or simply own a gun the second you receive a medical marijuana card you are supposed to turn in your gun.
You may not receive any notice or be stopped from buying a gun or fail a background check. This is often managed on the honor system. However, any legal troubles could quickly escalate if you are caught in possession of both a gun and cannabis, if you are involved in any crime or disagreement where the possession of a gun comes into play.
Additionally, you could be convicted of making a false statement to a licensed firearms dealer, if you lie about having a medical marijuana card. This can lead to a sentence for up to ten years in jail.
Some states only restrict the sale of handguns i.e. a concealed weapon but will still allow cannabis users to purchase rifles or shotguns.
Can You Own A Gun After Your Medical Card Expires?
Your medical marijuana card expiring helps eliminate the issue of you being an unlawful user of a firearm. It essentially removes the “proof” you’re an active user of a controlled substance which is what technically legally bars you from legally owning or operating a firearm.
You must also discontinue the use of marijuana to follow the letter of the law in carrying a gun.
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Can You Have A Foid Card And A Medical Card?
In Illinois people can obtain a Firearm Owners Identification or FOID card to possess a firearm. This presents the same legal quandary as any other state as having both puts you at risk given the letter of federal law.
Recreational users of cannabis, however, are not at risk of losing their FOID cards. According to the The Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) clarified that by state law dispensaries cannot share your personal information with anyone — including the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).
Can You Hunt If You Have A Medical Card?
Unlike a gun license which is managed by the ATF, hunting licenses are dictated by different agencies. For example in California, a state with legalized recreational and medical marijuana use, hunting licenses are awarded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
Their laws dictate that you can have a hunting license, you just cannot be under the influence of cannabis while hunting. Furthermore, according to the California Code of Regulations:
(2) No visitor shall possess, use, or be under the influence of marijuana on any department land. Visitors in possession of medical marijuana cards and/or other legal authorization to possess marijuana for medical purposes (per Health and Safety Code sections 11362.7 through 11362.83) may only possess marijuana in that visitor’s transport vehicle. Visitors with authorization to possess marijuana may not use it or be under its influence on department land. Visitors using or determined to be under the influence of marijuana on department land, or in possession of marijuana in violation of this section, may be cited and ejected per section 550(c)(3).
Can You Use CBD And Own A Gun?
Under The 2018 Farm Bill, formally known as The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, CBD made from legal hemp became legal on the federal level. This legal gray area is still up for debate and a whole suite of hemp-based cannabinoid products like CBD, delta-8, delta-10, HHC,THC-O and THC-P-based products. They offer semi-legal access to THC and cannabinoids.
This can create an even more murky area as they are technically intoxicants. While some states are tackling the legality of these compounds, it will vary from state to state. However, the fact that CBD is not a controlled substance. For those curious to stay abreast of this, laws govern the sale and
Can You Carry A Gun Into A Dispensary?
Given the high cash volume of dispensaries many can be staffed by an armed security guard. Walking into a dispensary with a gun, even if you’re legally able to do so, when there’s an armed security guard may not be the best idea. But can you do it legally?
If you’re staffing or own a dispensary, you may want to hire security. Hiring a security guard with the legal right to carry a gun, can help protect your business from any conflicts regarding gun and marijuana laws.
Technically, by the letter of California law a dispensary does not fall into any of the six restricted places in California where guns are not allowed:
- School Zones
- State or local public buildings without a license to carry
- State Capitol
- Federal Facilities
- Airports and Passenger terminals
- Public transit facilities
With that said, if you have the legal right to carry a firearm and can present a concealed firearms license or your Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) and can legally carry your firearm you can technically carry your firearm into a dispensary. However, it’s important to check with the dispensary beforehand.
The last thing you’d want to do, given the laws as they are, is escalate a confusing legal issue.
Marijuana legalization and decriminalization is still happening on the state level. States are still figuring out these laws and what medical marijuana and recreational cannabis use mean for their governments.
By federal law, use of marijuana means you cannot also use a gun. This is not, however, cut and dry as some states say yes, some say no, some limit the type of gun, and some have protections for gun users built into their medical marijuana legislation.
Both the legalization of marijuana and gun control are hot topics and only time will tell how these pan out. Be sure to check with your local government about the laws in your state.
If you’d like to legally get your medical marijuana card consider applying for one today.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Anand Dugar, an anesthesiologist, pain medicine physician and the founder of Green Health Docs. Graduating from medical school in 2004 and residency in 2008, Dr. Dugar has been a licensed physician for almost 20 years and has been leading the push for medical cannabis nationwide.