marijuana use vs gun ownership

You are about to celebrate that next leap in life, not realizing that a very innocent decision could be life changing. You are getting married, the big promotion, graduation, whatever it may be. To celebrate you are getting the boys/girls together for a fun weekend trip. Where are you going? Vegas for a bachelor’s/bachelorette party weekend? Los Angeles for the beaches/bars? Boulder for some skiing?

Loose locals are fun, and they happen to be just a few of the cannabis-forward vacation experiences in the US. While there, you think, “shoot it’s legal, might as well hit up a dispensary.” It may seem like innocent marijuana use, but not if you want to own a firearm.

Up In Smoke – Gun Ownership vs Marijuana Use

Bills such as HR 8, HR 1446, the NICS Denial Notification Act and others are working to expand background checks, make those checks mandatory for every purchase, and then make prosecution mandatory for willful omissions or “lie to buy” answers on the Firearms Transaction Record background check ATF Form 4473. 

You’re thinking, “Wait, what? How do these two relate?” Well, Question 21, subsection (e) which reads verbatim: “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.”

So you go to that dispensary and your ID is scanned, you register at the Cannabis Ski resort, and you pick up a Rx card while at the beach. Then you come home and decide you would now like to pick up that hunting rifle you’ve been eyeing, that personal defense carry that you have been saving up for, or that AR-15 you’ve wanted. You reach that question, 21(e), and innocently answer NO.  Guess what, you just committed a felony or possibly felonies. You lied on a federal form, you purchased a firearm illegally, and you now possess that firearm illegally. 

As a second amendment rights activist, gun-rights attorney and an FFL, I can tell you it’s a bigger deal than you may think. Language, in many laws, is specifically left just broad enough to be interpreted/enforced by prosecutors differently in different jurisdictions. Now you should always discuss any legal ramifications of your actions with a lawyer, but what’s without question is that it is illegal to smoke (use) marijuana and answer “No” on the 4473 to purchase and/or own firearms under federal law. 

What constitutes a marijuana “user”?

Regardless of where you live, smoking or possessing marijuana is illegal federally. So what is broad in this language is what constitutes a “user?” Daily use? A day ago? Just one time a month ago? Is there a limit?  As I’ve heard countless times in the courtroom from prosecutors, “You steal once you’re a thief for life and if you smoke once you’re a user for life.” So, you have some fun for one weekend, but the problem is you created what’s called “direct proof” or the actual written existence that you have purchased and therefore most likely used marijuana. 

Don’t take this as a suggestion to purchase marijuana on the streets instead. It’s a warning that we must stay vigilant, because there are always paths to gun confiscation and criminalization of good people if you’re not careful.  Get your highs from the hunt, the shooting range, the competition and be careful out there.

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