Second Amendment

The Cannabis Exception to the Second Amendment

Even in states that have legalized marijuana, using it means sacrificing your right to armed self-defense.


If you want to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, you have to fill out Form 4473, which is aimed at determining whether you are legally allowed to own a firearm. A recent revision to the form by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) underlines how blithely the federal government strips Americans of their Second Amendment rights.

"Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" asks Question 11(e). In the latest version of Form 4473, which dealers are required to start using on January 16, that question is followed by a warning in bold type: "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."

If you are one of the 68 million Americans who live in a state that has decided to allow recreational use of marijuana, or one of the 186 million who live in a state that recognizes marijuana as a medicine, you may have been under the impression that legalization makes cannabis consumption lawful. The ATF wants to disabuse you of that notion; hence the warning.

"We were concerned that some buyers who use marijuana may read the 2012 language asking if they were an 'unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana' and erroneously say no because in that particular state, marijuana has been legalized," an ATF spokeswoman told The Denver Post last week. "Most dealers recognize that marijuana use prohibits people from purchasing firearms under federal law, but many members of the general public may not be as familiar with the Gun Control Act."

Under that law, a cannabis consumer who possesses a gun (no matter where he got it) is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Likewise anyone who sells him a gun if has reason to know the buyer is a cannabis consumer. Falsely denying marijuana use on Form 4473 can get you up to five years.

The rationale for this rule is risible. Last August the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that banning gun sales to people who have medical marijuana cards is consistent with the Second Amendment because "empirical data and legislative determinations support a strong link between drug use and violence."

The court did not actually cite any such evidence, but it did observe that "illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior." The same could be said of drinkers, but it seems unlikely that the 9th Circuit would uphold a law that restricted the Second Amendment to teetotalers.

The appeals court also argued that cannabis consumers are "more likely to have negative interactions with law enforcement officers because they engage in criminal activity." It added that "they frequently make their purchases through black market sources who themselves frequently resort to violence."

Both of those risks are byproducts of prohibition, and they do not apply to people who grow, buy, or consume marijuana in accordance with state law. The fact that those activities are still prohibited by the federal government does not mean the average cannabis consumer is apt to get into a shootout with DEA agents, let alone with the state-licensed retailer who sells him marijuana.

The idea that marijuana makes people violent is a relic of the 1930s that has no relevance in determining who deserves to exercise the fundamental right of armed self-defense—a point the president-elect should recognize. Donald Trump's choice for attorney general may believe that "good people don't smoke marijuana," but Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a devotion to the Second Amendment that is inconsistent with disarming Americans based on such frivolous falsehoods.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Zen Magnets Wins a Very Rare Victory Over the Consumer Product Safety Commission

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  1. The link isn’t some wild theory. There are plenty of marijuana users that have demanded violence from their followers.

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  2. If alcohol consumers can legally own guns then marijuana consumers should be able to as well. The decision is a textbook case of an arbitrary and capricious decision.

    1. Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?

      1. Not to disagree with the arbitrary and capricious decision aspect of things. I can see where the owner of a gun shop might want to avoid contracting with someone who’s obviously wasted and might want legal protections or reserve any/all legal rights in doing so. But 10 yrs. in jail for owning a firearm and a marijuana license violates all kinds of jurisprudence and due process.

        1. so when a guy comes into the gunshop blasted, don’t sell him a gun. Tell him to come back when he’s straight up. Shhesh. Even the barkeep has to 86 s customer too drunk to be safe. But in the morning he can come back for a pint.

      2. Should have bolded unlawful as well. Which means that if you were, say 19, attempting purchase a rifle from an FFL, and a regular consumer of alcohol, you too would be a prohibited purchaser.

        Not to say that the law isn’t stupid and an affront to liberty. Just that it exists, and the people charged with enforcing it, are going to try to enforce it.

        Root and branch is the only sound approach.

      3. Who would you trust more with a gun, a drunk or a cannabis user? Easy for me. Drunks are unpredictable, cannabis users are not.

    2. I don’t think it’s an arbitrary & capricious ruling, at least not on that basis. The court would probably have upheld it if the statute referenced liquor consumption instead or as well. It’s not likely such a statute would be enacted, but don’t look to the judge to stop it.

  3. I just started smoking pot yesterday. Ex post facto, motherfuckers.

    1. Until they start linking medical marijuana authorization databases into the background check system. Then they know you were already an authorized user at the time you purchased.

      Ironically, if you’re a fully illegal user of marijuana, you’re probably at far less risk, because you don’t have a paper trail.

      1. Is being an authorized user proof of actual use?

        1. Do you trust what answer a government court will arrive at when you ask that question?

        2. That is part of what the case in the 9th dealt with, the buyer had a medical marijuana card and the court ruled that was sufficient evidence to consider her an unlawful user

        3. no. in fact the woman pressing the case cited had the card but had never bought or used the stuff. Blood test showed no trace. THAT was her beef. She answered truthfully she is NOT a user but the gunshop owner knew she had gotten the card. Her position was that the piece of paper did not make her a user, thus her denied sale was wrong.

      2. California have already been doing that….. some sheriffs are rotten to the bone. Also, they’re using that to disarm vets in some states. Got the card? Hand over yuor guns. No more for you.

        One a these fine days they’re going to disarm the wrong dude…… and a few agents will regret their dedication to the sick letter of the law.

  4. The court did not actually cite any such evidence …

    Gotta love that intermediate scrutiny the courts use every time a second amendment case is involved.

    1. They do the same thing in affirmative action cases: assume with no evidence that “diversity” is a self-evident good.

  5. Doesn’t this instead just support the ideas being parroted about “common sense” reforms? Heck, all they have to do is have the ATF see a few other subjects as illegal and then, bingo, proggies have their gunless utopia! Well, at least there would be few purchases legally clear of wrong doing, and then we just need a couple of laws written to confiscate since the courts will have supported them in that no one can reasonably be trusted.

  6. As I’ve said before, there is no greater threat to the average drug user than the criminal “justice” system. The risks of the drug itself — any drug — pale in comparison

  7. What makes you a user? If you’ve used in the past month? year? ever? If I used last week but I’ve stopped this week, am I no longer an illegal user?

    1. Good question; I did not see any time limit on there, though the question “seems” to be focused on the here and now “Are you…”; however, given out judicial system’s tendency to interpret such regulations rather broadly, having used MJ while a student 35 years ago might conceivably be enough.

      So the choice is comply and lose your rights, or lie. And become a de facto felon. Which I suspect is pretty much the whole point, to provide more avenues for “gotcha” whenever it might be needed.

      1. I recall an ATF opinion letter (of course, I can’t find it now) before the wording of the question was changed, which implied if you ever used any narcotic illegally, you were by definition addicted, which makes you ineligible to purchase a firearm.

        1. I’m estimating that at least 60% or more of us would fall into that little catch all; and who said gun control couldn’t happen?

  8. “Under that law, a cannabis consumer who possesses a gun (no matter where he got it) is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Likewise anyone who sells him a gun if has reason to know the buyer is a cannabis consumer. Falsely denying marijuana use on Form 4473 can get you up to five years.”

    The big risk is for people who both have a medical marijuana card and are required to register a firearm.

    Being on both lists should be more than sufficient to establish probable cause. How can you be on both lists and NOT have committed a crime?

    It’s certainly reasonable suspicion.

    If you have a registered firearm, do not get a medical marijuana card.

    1. Or don’t register your firearms.

      1. We don’t! NEVER WILL.

    2. 5th ammendment protection from the gun registration requirement?

    3. Or, have your wife get a medical marijuana card while you purchase the guns.

      Or, have the wife buy pot from stoner kids while carrying your guns.

      Or, shoot up the stoner kids houses for pot with your guns … nope that one is the actual felony.

    4. I decided a few years ago when my state legallised marijuana for medical use.. I have NO DOUBT I will easily qualify for the card. But I decided not to on the sole basis that MJ is still “listed” as a Cat One Controlled Substance by the dirtbags in DC. I knew it was a matter of time before some hooh hahs began to get uppity and check both lists… got a Mother May I Card to carry concealed? Got a Medical Marijuana Card? We’ll make an appointment to come found for a visit….. except you won’t know when. You KNOW what will happen next….

      No, relief from chronic pain would be nice, but not at the expense of losing my right to arms.

  9. I suppose it is a matter of time until:

    1. Are you in any way remiss on paying your taxes, have you missed a filing deadline, or owe any debt to the IRS?

    2. Have you been convicted of or plead guilty to a traffic violation in the past 5 years?

    3. Are you a member or live in close association with any one who is a member of a “hate group” as defined by the SPLC [includes Family Research Council and Jewish Defense League, by the way]?

    They don’t take rights away up front, as that would cause to much trouble and yelling and screaming; better to do it by a thousand slices, a little bit at a time in a way not too many people notice right away.

  10. Sort of OT: “As a physician who routinely sees marijuana users, what struck me was not only the global reduction in blood flow in the marijuana users brains , but that the hippocampus was the most affected region due to its role in memory and Alzheimer’s disease,’ she said.

    Our research has proven that marijuana users have lower cerebral blood flow than non-users.

    Second, the most predictive region separating these two groups is low blood flow in the hippocampus on concentration brain SPECT imaging.

    ‘This work suggests that marijuana use has damaging influences in the brain ? particularly regions important in memory and learning and known to be affected by Alzheimer’s.’

    Someone I know (and is a huge drug warrior) posted this on their FB page about the dangers of using MJ. I retorted that whether the research was true or not, as an individual I have the right to put whatever I want in my body.…..zones.html

    1. Someone I know (and is a huge drug warrior) posted this on their FB page about the dangers of using MJ. I retorted that whether the research was true or not, as an individual I have the right to put whatever I want in my body.

      This is really the point, but it seems impossible to get that through the statist brain. Possibly related to reduced blood flow?

      1. He’s always been against the used of drugs, but since he had his two children, he has transformed himself into a drug war warrior.

    2. The patients – from California, Washington, Virginia, Georgia and New York – all had complex treatment-resistant issues,

      Comparing those patients’ brain scans with 100 healthy controls, the researchers saw a stark difference in blood flow levels.

      Now, I’m no medical researcher. But something seems a bit odd there.

      Of course, difficulty forming memories is a well know side effect of being stoned.

      But, as you say, the main problem is the notion that it being slightly more dangerous than a lot of people think should have anything to do with whether it is legal to use or possess.

    3. I retorted that whether the research was true or not, as an individual I have the right to put whatever I want in my body.

      So, either he remembers when we started imprisoning people for having Alzheimer-like symptoms, he’s suffering from Alzheimer-like symptoms and belongs in prison, or he needs to acknowledge a huge fucking moral hazard in simply imprisoning people for vague notions of forgetfulness.

    4. Research studies has shown cannabis to be a highly effective medicine in preventing Alzheimer’s, and is as good as any Pharma has to offer.

    5. I ran across that…. the study is seriously flawed… one of those studies that takes the dart, walks over to the wall with it, pokes it into the wall, then goes and gets the target and puts it where thd dart’s pin is. And calls it “research”.

      Consider the source….

  11. For anyone confused, the changes to the form are in wording, the actual laws have not changed. It was still illegal to buy a firearm if you ever used marijuana before this question was altered, they are just clarifying it for morons that are unfamiliar with the federal law. Drug users have always been restricted from the transfer of firearms. Anyone who smoked marijuana in the past and bought a gun from an FFL was probably lying on the form, which highlights why these background checks aren’t as effective as the government would like you to believe, similar to getting checked by the TSA.

    1. “similar to getting checked by the TSA”

      So they fondle your balls?

      1. TSA only wishes they were ball fondlers.

      2. Faith Armory in Temecula has a few employees who could grope me TSA style.

  12. Never follow the law

  13. Perhaps someone smarter than I can enlighten me – how can this be reconciled with the Rohrabacher Amendment, as far a medical MJ is concerned?

    1. Maybe I set my sights too high – maybe *someone* can enlighten me?

      1. The Rohrabacher ammendment prevents DOJ interference in state marijuana laws. Users are still subject to harassment under federal law.

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  15. “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law…”

    Not if the feds can go fuck themselves, which, last I checked, they are authorized to do.

  16. re: “The idea that marijuana makes people violent is a relic”
    The truth that marijuana distorts one’s perceptive abilities and stunts their decision making abilities is hardly a secret. I am a staunch advocate of 2nd amendment rights, but would in no way want someone’s personal choices to distort their abilities to think and behave normally to automatically be assumed to have access to that right specifically because of that decision.
    If a person that is using a mind-altering, perception distorting drug wants to have full access to the rights of those that do not willfully choose to f**k with their minds for no practical reason, then perhaps they should join the rest of us in reality rather than trying to evade it with chemical assistance.

    1. Do you drink, consume caffeine or nicotine, or any of a host of legal drugs or natural substances. If you do you don’t have much room to criticize, if not point taken.

      1. Not to mention things like the “runner’s high” or other mind altering activities that don’t even require the use of an outside substance.

    2. you’ve obviously read and/or watched a bunch of the old propaganda spreading those lies. And no, I don’t use the stuff. It is not a “mind altering” or “perception distorting” chemical. Even if it is, so what? After the high wears off, usually by next morning I understand, the guy who toked up on Friday night at a friend’s house must go disarmed the rest of his life? Get real. Unlike an alcoholic who is under the influence for a few hours, then he’s fine, except for maybe a hangover or headache, so the guy who tokes up on weed usually wakes up in the morning and is just fine…. often in better shape than if he’d tied one on with the hootch. So how is it that the one can’t ever own a gun, the other can?

  17. IMO re firearms law enforcement, the BATFE, aka the ATF does other things too, is akin to a rabid guard dog, that has gotten completely out of control. No small amount of the blame for this unhappy situation falls directly on the broad shoulders of The Congress, that being the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, those bodies being the creators of federal firearms law. By the way, the ATF/ BATFE is the offspring of the strange intercourse that takes place in The Congress, a process also known as law making. Unfortunately for the body politic, The Congress, in it’s august wisdom, or what passes therefore all to often empowers and or creates government agencies, and then seemingly forgets about it’s offspring and their doings. Unfortunately, The People, the vast majority of whom are law abiding, suffer greviously as a result of this congressional inattention. FWIW! I’m not a user of POT, I much prefer good scotch whisky, though to each their own. PErhaps I’m just prejudiced, but it strikes me that respecting the ATF/BATFE and it’s firearms enforcement activity, a hole of a lot more harm than good is created, which is not the way things are supposed to work, is it.

    1. Re my closing conclusion, I suspect that similar conclusions might be drawn re this POT Enforcement business.

  18. Progressives (those people who are responsible for the original Prohibition, as well as most of the recent versions) really have a hard time with the concept of cause and effect.

  19. ITS ALL ABOUT DISARMING THE PEOPLE! the rulers want as many guns as they can get!!!

    Mental health is the avenue to gun control..

    American Psychiatric Asso: Half of Americans are mentally ill..
    After crafting by politicians and Media all will be crazy except for them..

    300 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs were written in 2009 alone..
    Your children on medication for ADHD?
    Single woman with children diagnosed with depression?

    be careful what you ask for

  20. Weed or prescription drugs – pick your poison!!

    Big Pharma puts millions upon millions on drugs and then convince the people that the
    mentally ill should not have guns, the sheep agree, not realizing they just targeted themselves..
    First, you build a medical/pharmaceutical industry that successfully pushes the notion that every little sorrow, nervous twitch, or bit of restlessness is a “disease” that needs to be treated with psychoactive drugs. Then you go on a holy crusade to take guns away from the “mentally ill” (and all the bobbleheads who haven’t thought about the implications repeat “good idea, good idea, good idea”)

    So with the consent of the ignorant, complacent, well-programmed, and the devious slimeballs who take advantage of all of the above, any one of the millions who’ve been propagandized into taking one of those psychoactive drugs can become a candidate for losing his or her gun rights. No due process, no nothin’. (Added: Well, maybe the opinion of an authoritarian, anti-gun counselor or shrink.)

    It’s just too-too perfect. Politically elegant.

    Claire Wolfe

    1. BAD lower back. 3 compressed lower vertebrae. Use opiates like candy. legally and otherwise obtained. Enjoy every one of ’em. Also enjoy my unregistered gun collection and machine shop to make firearms. F@#K THEM.


  21. What part of ” SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” is so difficult for the police state to understand? You will NEVER read about a guy pounding his wife and kids stoned on pot. That behavior is reserved for BOOZE also formerly banned. What a F#$K*@G JOKE. WE WILL NOT COMPLY WITH ANY INFRINGMENT AND ENCOURAGE ALL OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.

  22. “The use … of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law.” I was unable to find anywhere in the federal CSA law where cannabis use is prohibited. “Are you an unlawful user of … marijuana … ?” As long as an applicant, in states where is use is prohibited, wasn’t using cannabis at the time of the application, then the applicant can legitimately say “no” without worry about perjuring themselves. If the application wanted to include past use, whether 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago, they would have to say “Are you or WERE YOU an unlawful user ..”. Lastly, “Are you … addicted to, marijuana … ?” Even heavy cannabis users could legitimately say “no”, since stopping cannabis use has almost no withdrawal symptoms. The application is deceptive trap to get an applicant to say “yes”. So, don’t worry. Go ahead, and “just say no”.

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  24. Yes, the gun controllers are sneaky, adding a statement to form 4473 to either prevent a cannabis user from legally buying a gun or forcing him to commit a crime by lying. BTW I haven’t bought a gun in many years but I don’t remember having to sign any form. Is this form for handgun purchases only? The article is incomplete because it does not make clear if this applies to all gun purchases or not.

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  28. great article in support of Cannabis and I love kratom too.

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