Appeals Court: State-Sanctioned Marijuana Users Not Afforded Second Amendment Rights

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 31, 2016

    marijuana_gavelJustices for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of a 1968 federal law prohibiting the sale of firearms to any “unlawful user” of a federally controlled substance.

    Justices determined that state-registered medical marijuana patients are forbidden from purchasing firearms because cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law. They further opined that the ban “furthers the Government’s interest in preventing gun violence” because marijuana users “are more likely to be involved in violent crimes.”

    They concluded, “[The plaintiff in this case] does not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in simultaneously holding a [medical cannabis] registry card and purchasing a firearm.”

    In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued a memorandum to all gun dealers in the United States specifying, “Any person who uses … marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

    In response to today’s court ruling, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “There is no credible justification for a ‘marijuana exception’ to the US Constitution. Responsible adults who use cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states ought to receive the same legal rights and protections as do other citizens. It is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion, as well as its rapidly changing legal status under state laws.”

    The Ninth Circuit decision, Wilson v Lynch et al., is available online here.

    68 responses to “Appeals Court: State-Sanctioned Marijuana Users Not Afforded Second Amendment Rights”

    1. This is absolutely a crock of BS… because a person spokes pot or not has no affect on that persons ability to use a firearm and do so properly.

      • Julian says:

        Well Audrey, I both “spoke” and smoke pot, 🙂
        and I have to say that being high on THC gives me better aim at shooting skeet, (and not just because im consuming something else than alcohol). And I never robbed a liquor store, murdered anyone or shot into my neighbor’s fence while in possession of a fire arm while under the influence of psychoactive quantities of THC from whole plant cannabis. So the “affect” of marijuana is I handle my firearm more safely and consciously than I would when I was previously without any presrcibed or prohibited substance, when I was just angry, which is why I went to go blow off some steam and shoot some skeet with friends and family in the first place.

      • Jack says:

        Lol. This might be the scariest and funniest thing I have ever heard! Could you imagine what would happen in this country if the government said any person who uses alcohol legally in their own state will lose their 2nd amendment right to bear arms, and can’t legally own a gun to protect themselves or their families. I believe the entire country would storm the Capitol. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do, but there is no way the supreme court can lawfully uphold this decision no matter how hard they try. Ps..when is the last time a joint stopped a mountain lion attact? I imagine a hunter pointing his joint at a deer asking,”why isn’t this working?” It’s OK to snipe police officers, but it’s not OK to carry a firearm through Yellowstone for protection against wild animals. What are they smoking on capital hill?

    2. Rod is on the gas says:

      Do you suppose they’ll be satisfied when they have stolen all 10 of our Bill Of Rights?

      What’s the point of a Constitution which has been so weakened by government and SCOTUS?

    3. Julian says:

      $#!+ just got real. The second amendment exercised through cannabis in the Supreme Court?
      And now the courts invoke the NRA to defend medical marijuana patients? How many veterans work security in states with legal medical marijuana?

      “Gun Control Act (Section 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3)) has some unintended consequences:”


      “One of the most well-known of which is the case, Willis vs. Winters in which Oregon Sheriffs withheld concealed handgun licenses from applicants solely due to their medical marijuana use. Plaintiffs purported that applicants had submitted an otherwise favorable registration and that legal marijuana use was not a sufficient reason to deny a Concealed Handgun License. The Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not preempt state laws and required the sheriffs to issue the CHL anyway.”

      On to the Supreme Court we go…

    4. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Someone must really hate people who likes marijuana to come up with that.

    5. Mark Mitcham says:

      Pop quiz: Which is the SAFEST object to put in your mouth?
      A) a gun
      B) a marijuana joint

      For any trolling narcs out there who aren’t sure, the answer is “B.” With respect to safety, guns and weed are extreme polar opposites. So let’s be clear on which of the two are actually dangerous. The dangerous object is the gun. The SAFE object is the joint. With me so far?

      Now: It was The Justices in this case who are pushing “the Government’s interest in preventing gun violence.” (I happen to agree with that goal; but I’m also a big believer in Freedom; regardless, my personal views on The Second Amendment are beside the point here.)

      Logically, in order to reduce gun violence, you have to reduce guns. (Or maybe just the bullets, I’d accept that.) If that’s your goal, then logically, there is no other way to achieve it. Why? Because of the fact that guns are inherently dangerous objects, regardless of one’s intentions or purpose. (Take the pop quiz again, if you’re still not sure.)

      But here’s the snag: what the fuck does the goal of reducing gun violence have to do with cannabis? Cannabis is in no way dangerous. But, according to the Justices, marijuana users “are more likely to be involved in violent crimes.”

      Huh?? Really?? No, I don’t believe you.

      That’s where I call bullshit. “Bullshit!!”

      • mexweed says:

        Reminds me that on 450430 A. $hitler pointed the $hootgun up his $hootmouth and $prayed brains all over the Fuehrerbunker. 3 of 4 top Nazis were tobackgo addicts right up to the Endloesung (Adolf was proud of having had the Will to Quit). On 450501 Magda Goebbels had the 6 children put to death with cyanide candy, then had a glass of champagne and a $igarette before biting down on her cyanide.
        * * * *
        Time to call Bullet$hoot?
        * * * *
        “Ban Guns, Not Ganja” (picture of leaf rising up out of broken-in-two pistol)

        • Me says:

          That really depends if the gun is loaded and if the finger is on the trigger. Anywho I am a strong second amendment advocate and a marijuana lover. This 9th circuit b.s. is exactly that, California gun hating police state, Nazi b.s. Responsibility with anything is key and just because you smoke pot legally does not give them the right to take away your rights, you are not a felon.

    6. I’m not a lawyer but if the states can make thier own rulings about Marijuana, then why can’t they bypass the gun laws.

    7. steve says:

      Does this also apply to someone who has purchased a firearm in the past and who is also in the process of obtaining a mmj card? should said person get rid of the firearm before completely registering in a mmj program? Or, is this only applicable to persons currently enrolled in a mmj program with no firearms who tries to purchase a firearm after the fact?

      [Paul Armentano responds: The federal statute simply states that users of marijuana are prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.]

      • Someone Who cares says:

        They say cannabis has no medical purpose. Whats the medical purpose of alcohol? Why is it okay for drunk cops and judges to have guns?

    8. Julian says:

      Over the last year or so we have seen a variety of high profile marijuana legality cases hit federal and apellate courts. Some news was good, like defending the Rorhabacher-Farr amendment to keep the Federal government from using Congressional funds to attack state marijuana operations in compliance with state law.
      (Which makes one speculate… The DEA makes more than enough money from asset forfeitures to afford a raid on dispensaries… Why don’t they disclose to Congress where THAT money goes?)

      Then ridiculous $#!+ like THIS happens. This court decision better not end up with some farmer in Oregon holed up in a cabin with all his guns and a damn forest fire or something. Of course, Congress COULD do their job and reflect the views of the people, but after the Washmoney-$hultz victory yesterday in Florida its going to be an uphill battle no matter who takes Congress in November. (Uphill for the Dems, up $#!+s creek for the Repubs).

    9. Julian says:

      One other good aspect in the court system I would like to point out is that positive public opinion over marijuana is beginning to show increasingly in both jurors and judges.

      Take this case from last year in Muskogee Oklahoma:


      The defense actually tried to defend this cop convicted of 6 counts of first degree rape (8 total) by coercing disadvantaged black women into sex by doing background checks on them and stalking them… By claiming to the court, “they smoked marijuana.”

      “Holtzclaw’s choice of victims and attorney, Scott Adams, aggressively questioned his accusers about their marijuana use, drinking, thefts and suspended driver’s licenses in an attempt to undermine their credibility.”

      This was a rare moment and victory where a cop was convicted for predatory violent behavior. This report received little to no coverage last year, mainly because the press doesn’t report police violence when the victims have extensive criminal histories or stereotyped culpability. But its also a victory, as horrible as we can imagine, that our courts dont let the objectively moral activity of marijuana consumption defend police predators with faulty defense. It’s unfathomable for activists to have to say that these days, but this is the kind of bull$#!+ defense that corrupts every level of government… “Marijuana is bad,” (because it is prohibited into a black market), “therefore this person is bad.”
      Look where we are coming from. Then we may know where we are going.

      • Julian says:

        And right on cue to prove my point;


        A NIDA funded study from the Journal Lancet blows up in their face as adult consumers of cannabis increased since 2007 while “disorders” went down. NIDA is trying to save face by saying they should “warn people about the negative effects of marijuana.” Like what? Curing all the diseases that the alternatives can’t like Chrone’s Disease and diabetes?
        The CSAct is like an alarm going off only when our boat is anchored off of paradise.

        • Julian says:

          …An alarm that creates and summons predatory law enforcement that disproportionately targets the weak, the sick, the impoverished and the disenfranchised to rape, rob, racially discriminate or even kill them without punishment, prejudice or accountability.
          Just needed to clarify my analogy.
          Then weed must be like the tree of wisdom through which God spoke to Moses to set his people free.
          …(The “burning bush in the cave of Moses” ha! 🙂 Sorry, inside joke! I had to say that again… Lol.. )

    10. Matt says:

      A travesty of justice. More likely to be involved in VIOLENT crimes? What a joke. What a sick, sad, joke. Another example of how our gov. views on cannabis are WOEFULLY AND PAINFULLY stuck in the past. Oh man…we have GOT to get rid of this outdated prohibition. This 20th century madness MUST stop. 1968 law…..wake up, America. We must put a stop to this insanity…..

      • Matt says:

        and what about alcoholics???

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          The following is from MPP’s website:

          Alcohol is more likely to contribute to acts of violence than marijuana. According to research published in the journal, Addictive Behaviors, “Alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas, “Cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”17

          The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 25% to 30% of violent crimes and 3% to 4% of property crimes in the U.S. are linked to the use of alcohol.18 According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, that translates to nearly 5,000,000 alcohol-related violent crimes per year.19 By contrast, the government does not even track violent acts specifically related to marijuana use, as the use of marijuana has not been associated with violence.

          Alcohol is a particularly significant factor in the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault, whereas marijuana is not. This is not to say that alcohol causes these problems; rather, its use makes it more likely that an individual prone to such behavior will act on it. For example, investigators at the Research Institute on Addictions reported, “The use of alcohol… was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression,” whereas the use of marijuana was “not significantly associated with an increased likelihood of male partner violence.”20, 21 Specifically, the odds of abuse were eight times higher on days when men were drinking; the odds of severe abuse were 11 times higher. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network’ (RAINN) webpage dedicated to educating the public about “Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault” highlights alcohol as the “most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault” and provides information on an array of other drugs that have been linked to sexual violence.22 The word “marijuana” does not appear anywhere on the page.

      • Scott B says:

        This is just nuts. It would be nice to know the data that is backing up this statement that Marijuana users are more likely to be involved in violent crime. This is reefer madness all over again. I hope the NRA will not stand for this.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Puts the NRA in a bit of a bind, doesn’t it?

          Either they have to defend their own arms-bearing stoners, or they have to sit quietly and watch and do nothing, as American citizens’ gun rights are being taken away by the government!!!

          Now, THAT’s what I call being caught between a rock and a stoner!

          Which way are they gonna go? Anybody got a read on that?

          • Larry says:

            Great question …let’s hear the N.R.A. ‘S Response

          • Julian says:

            This article from 2011 quotes silence from the NRA when the ATF started “shooting blind” after the Fast and Furious scandal according to the only gun advocacy group to respond to the ATF memo to deny weapons to medical marijuana patients, Gun Owners of America:


            As suspected, the NRA was making more profit with the ATF’s illegal “tracer” programs that sold American weapons to both the Mexican Calderon administration and the warring Sinaloa cartel run by El Chapo Guzman. Due to a little known law written in the 80s the ATF have exclusive rights to disclosure of all the serial tracking numbers for every weapon sold in the United States, effectively creating an arms cartel. No surprise the NRA won’t $tand up to the ATF. The ATF also gets a take on asset forfeitures which doesn’t make them the best allies of marijuana legalization. Same goes for the NRA; guilt by association:

            The conflict in law is that federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to people in possession or consuming “addictive” drugs under schedule 1 classification. (I.e. Don’t ask don’t tell).
            However its the Supreme Court’s job to interpret the Constitution and defend the second amendment. I suspect they won’t touch the case at least until a new Justice is appointed, and probably not until Congress makes a move first.

          • Julian says:

            With California legalizing, the NRA has placed themselves in an untenable position; the ATF doesn’t have the resources to enforce gun prohibition to this many marijuana patients and people in possession, its just a prosecutorial tool.
            Real question is at what point will there be so many people in legal state possession of marijuana that we have a constitutional crisis? Theres enough data from Colorado and Washington now to disprove the validity of prohibiting weapons from marijuana consumers, but this battle will be win in Congress before the courts.

            • Mark Mitcham says:

              Thank you, Julian, for answering my question. Now I know who is sticking up for principle (NORML), and who has been bought-off and is just talking shit (NRA)! Now I see: money is more important than principle to the folks at NRA.

              Your link to The Cannabist article led me to this gem of a paragraph:

              “On this gun issue, the permanently-stoned probably-pacifists over at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws support Second Amendment gun ownership rights more diligently than the conservative culture warriors leading the National Rifle Assocation.”