Do medical marijuana patients have the right to own guns? That question has been at the center of a controversy over the last few years. A letter from ATF assistant director Arthur Herbert stated that medical marijuana patients are forbidden from purchasing guns under federal law. That letter was written in September 2011. This directive applies even in those states which have legalized the substance for medical or recreational use.

Rowan Wilson was a medical marijuana patient in Nevada when she tried to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer who knew the woman. The seller refused the sale, because Wilson had a prescription for medical marijuana.

Wilson sued, claiming “No evidence exists that Ms. Wilson has ever been ‘an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana…. she is not an unlawful user of or addiction to marijuana….Nonetheless, Ms. Wilson was denied her Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms based solely on her possession of a valid State of Nevada medical marijuana registry card.”

The ATF stated the sale of firearms to a patient allowed access to cannabis is a violation of federal law.

In March, U.S. District Court judge Gloria Navarro upheld a motion to dismiss the case, saying that Wilson was not eligible for damages. The ruling stated the plaintiff let her medical marijuana card lapse since filing the case.

Navarro wrote “habitual drug users, like career criminals and the mentally ill, more likely will have difficulty exercising self-control, particularly when they are under the influence of controlled substances.”

Wilson and her lawyers plan to appeal the decision, saying the case on which Navarro based her decision was flawed.

Illinois is one of the states developing ways of implementing rules for prescription cannabis. The Department of Health in that state is advising patients they will be in violation of state and federal law if they do not surrender their weapons.

This issue is likely to become even more common as additional states approve marijuana for medical use.


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