Gun Rights

Although Cannabis Consumers Who Own Firearms Are Federal Felons, Illinois Says They Can Keep Their Guns

The Illinois State Police confirms that people who try newly legal marijuana are not considered "unlawful users" of narcotics.


Cannabis consumers in Illinois, where state-licensed marijuana dispensaries started serving recreational customers yesterday, will pay more in taxes than cannabis consumers in most other states that have legalized pot. But at least they do not have to worry that the state police will be coming for their guns, thanks to protections included in the 2019 law that allows adults 21 or older to purchase and use marijuana.

Federal law prohibits gun possession by any "unlawful user" of a controlled substance, including marijuana. When you buy a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, you have to fill out a form that asks, "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" The question includes a warning that "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."

A cannabis consumer who possesses a gun is committing a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A cannabis consumer who answers "no" to the question about illegal drug use while buying a gun is committing another federal felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Illinois likewise prohibits anyone who has used an illegal drug during the past year from obtaining a firearm owner's identification (FOID) card, which is required to legally own a gun in that state. But the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which the state legislature passed last year, says "a person shall not be considered an unlawful user…solely as a result of his or her possession or use of cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia in accordance with this Act." This week the Illinois State Police (ISP), which oversees the FOID program, confirmed in a Facebook post that, notwithstanding news reports to the contrary, it will not revoke cards "based solely on a person's legal use of adult use cannabis."

The ISP added that it "will revoke FOID cards where it is demonstrated that an individual is addicted to or is a habitual user of cannabis" (whatever that means). It also warned that "the use of cannabis is still considered to be illegal by the Federal government," and "the purchase of a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer is governed by Federal law." So are the possession of firearms and purchases from private sellers, although the ISP did not mention that.

What about the risk that buying marijuana from a state-licensed retailer will tip off the feds? The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act says that "any identifying or personal information of a [marijuana] purchaser obtained or received in accordance with this Section shall not be retained, used, shared or disclosed for any purpose except as authorized by this Act." Because of that provision, says Ed Sullivan, a former state legislator who is now a lobbyist for the Illinois State Rifle Association, "no cannabis dispensary can share your personal information, unless you authorize them, [with] anyone or any entity. This includes the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF)."

Sullivan warns, however, that the federal government may have access to information about Illinois patients who participate in the state's pre-existing medical marijuana program. "While Illinois treats cannabis as a prescribed drug, the Federal Government considers cannabis to be a Schedule I narcotic," he writes. "As such, the Federal Government could gain access to your records as a Medical Cannabis User and therefore jeopardize your right to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearm License[e]."

Sullivan concludes that buying marijuana from recreational dealers is a safer option for patients concerned about their Second Amendment rights. I'm not sure about that, since the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act promises that the list of registered patients will be kept "confidential," to be shared only among the state agencies charged with carrying out the law. That law does require that the state's prescription monitoring program "make a notation" that a patient is authorized to use medical marijuana "for the purposes of patient care," but it also says "this confidential list may not be combined or linked in any manner with any other list or database except as provided in this Section."

While both the Illinois State Police and Sullivan focus on gun purchases from federally licensed dealers, the federal law banning firearm possession by cannabis consumers also applies to private transfers, or even to continued gun ownership by someone who decides to try marijuana now that it's legal in Illinois. That prohibition is pretty hard to enforce in those contexts, of course, but the fact remains that millions of gun owners are felons in the eyes of the federal government simply because they use an intoxicant that is legal in states accounting for more than a quarter of the country's population.

NEXT: Illinois Spent the Last Decade Losing Population and Learning Nothing

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  1. Illinois a 2A sanctuary?

    1. It must be the reefer madness!

    2. The State is not, but many counties are.

  2. “Although Cannabis Consumers Who Own Firearms Are Federal Felons”

    I think I’m having trouble understanding why a libertarian would prioritize a federal law over the Constitution, even as a headline.

    No, they aren’t felons. The law is unconstitutional. Stop accepting the legitimacy of bad laws,, and propagating that claim of legitimacy, just because the laws have been around a while.

    1. While we can all quietly agree that the law is unconstitutional, it doesn’t really matter what 22 libertarians on a blog say. If the entire weight and power of the Federal government considers you a felon for consuming cannabis while owning a firearm, you’re a felon.

      Should be vs. is: It’s useful information to keep in the back of your mind when purchasing both.

      1. You’re welcome to your opinion. Meanwhile, the fact that the Federal government does something doesn’t in any way legitimize it nor make it true.

        Everyone understands what you’re saying. However, if you look closely, you’ll realize you missed my point. Of course the Federal government will exercise its power over you illegally. That doesn’t mean Sullum has to accept it and legitimize it, or that you do either.

        Call it calumny, abuse of power, and lies. Don’t meekly accept it because they can imprison you because they have more force than you do.

      2. Should be vs. is: It’s useful information to keep in the back of your mind when purchasing both.

        Also, when generating headlines for the general public, or even the not so general public, probably best not to lead with the negative railway line of thinking. I know we’ve got publications that are bought and sold with whole men=women mentality, that doesn’t mean that proceeding ideology first is always the best idea.

        1. With the exception maybe being… A publication based specifically on an ideology?

          1. First, to what publication are you referring?

            A publication based on ideology needn’t be based on the ideology blindly. It is, in fact, a felony and pretending that it’s not doesn’t advance libertarianism and make you look like an out-of-touch zealot.

            The kind of libertarian who would prefer to have people aware of the law and see fewer of them locked in cages; that’s the kind of libertarian who would prioritize Federal law above the Constitution as fact. Would opposing that make you the kind of libertarian who likes to see more libertarians ideologically pure but locked in cages? Or are you going to quit being a retard and realize that the situation is more nuanced than that? I don’t like defending Shackford but JFC is this idiotic.

            1. It’s Sullum. Not Shackford.

              “A publication based on ideology needn’t be based on the ideology blindly”

              Cool, when I think it does I’ll let you know.

              “It is, in fact, a felony and pretending that it’s not doesn’t advance libertarianism and make you look like an out-of-touch zealot.”

              It’s also unconstitutional, and I couldn’t care less what you personally think advaces libertarianism but I will point out “that’s the way it is kiddo” advances exactly nothing. Now what fucktard? I’m a zealot for pointing out that you and SULLUM are blindly accepting the legitimacy of unconstitutional laws?

              I’ll take that hit.

              1. You know what mad, your gibberish filled rant to power changed my mind. I’m an asshole for expecting a leading libertarian publication to actually lead on ideas.

                Muh bad. Consider me suitably chastised.

              2. I’m a zealot for pointing out that you and SULLUM are blindly accepting the legitimacy of unconstitutional laws?

                Neither Sullum nor myself has advocated their legitimacy. Even if only to decry a lack of it, you’ve projected more legitimacy than anyone in this thread.

                Keep yammering, I’m sure you’ll convince people that zealous ideological purity is the way to go any time now.

                P.S. – You do realize you’ve skipped over about a half dozen other Constitutional violations, right? Why doesn’t your ideological purity construe those as endorsements made by yourself?

                1. “Accomplish real change, accept the status quo and consensus” – mad.casual

                  “Neither Sullum nor myself has advocated their legitimacy.”


                  “Although Cannabis Consumers Who Own Firearms Are Federal Felons”

              3. You can think it is unconstitutional all you want. SCOTUS has ruled laws are considered constitutional until proven they are not.

  3. Its an odd situation. Technically anyone who buys legal MJ in IL is ineligible to own a firearm in IL because becoming a federally prohibited person makes one ineligible for a FOID card (gun license). (430 ILCS 65/8, paragraph n)

    By explicitly tying the state law to federal they’ve pretty much waived any right to have a different interpretation

    1. The FOID violates the 2nd.

  4. I don’t think simple possession of a firearm by illegal drug users is a crime. The law cited is pretty long but skimming through it I don’t see such a section.

    1. 18 U.S. Code § 922 (g)(3) prohibits the drug user to “possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition;” and the way “commerce” has been interpreted literally everything is “in or affecting” commerce at all times, so this would appear to ban simple possession

      1. Not possess, but purchase. Only applicable at the time you fill out a 4473 (for a purchase/transfer via FFL).

        1. Read 18 U.S. Code § 922. Section (d) explicitly bans purchase, Section (g) makes it illegal “to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”

          Like I said, “commerce” has been so broadly interpreted in the past that this section can easily be construed to ban simple possession

          1. I agree. SCOTUS has so bastardized The Commerce Clause, anything can be considered “commerce” according to them.

          2. Sullum makes it sound like a fait accompli though.

        2. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it ILLEGAL to possess a firearm if you are a user of controlled substances. The Federal Government considers marijuana a controlled substance. The question on Form 4473 prevents you from purchasing a firearm.

          1. So if you’re taking prescription antibiotics you can’t posses a gun?

  5. When is the federal government going to get their act together?

    It would be easier for the federal government to classify and control marijuana as they do other drugs like Morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Codeine, etc. even alcohol.

    1. It would be even easier for them not to classify and control anything.

    2. When is the federal government going to get their act together?

      “How about never? Is never good for you?” 8-(

    3. When politicians are no longer afraid of losing votes by supporting MJ†.

      I give it another ten or fifteen years.
      †Note, the fear does not have to be reasonable for them to hold it.

  6. Considering how ubiquitous both marijuana and firearms are, I wonder when this is even enforced. I hear about it on the news from time to time, but it seems like something that is piled on, rather than being primary.

    1. Two cheers for the Guns & Dope Party!

      1. What a great country where the gay married couple can defend their dope farm with their AR15s!

    2. Wasn’t/isn’t Hawaii actively preventing firearm sales to anyone who received a medical marijuana card? I thought I remembered reading something like that.

      1. Also in Pennsylvania the PSP (Pennsylvania State Police) is sending anyone with a medical marijuana card a “Warning Letter” they need get rid of their guns, revoking their LTCF (License To Carry Firearms), and ratting them out to the FBI’s NCIC that you are a prohibited person, so you can’t buy another firearms because you will fail the background check now.

        Hawaii and Washington state sent out warning letters, but Pennsylvania actually is taking proactive steps to take away your Second Amendment rights.

        Along with their “Illegal, Nonexistent” handgun registration database they are leading the way trashing the Constitution every day. With support from Pennsylvania’s government at every level. That’s our PSP, following orders.

        1. Which is weird because their carry laws are very liberal.

    3. Piling on is the purpose of a lot of laws.

  7. That prohibition is pretty hard to enforce in those contexts, of course, but the fact remains that millions of gun owners are felons in the eyes of the federal government simply because they use an intoxicant that is legal in states accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s population.

    That’s the money shot right there. All of this seems to be predicated on a long series of winks, nods, nudges and pinky-promises that data won’t be shared or disclosed with this or that authority. If you’re a marijuana user and gun owner, and both those pieces of information are held in ANY database anywhere, knuckle up when you pass into the US via any port of entry.

  8. I assumed all gun-owners in Illinois are felons whether they smoke pot or not.

    1. I’m surprised that Illinois actually has a provision that protects stoner gun owners. Illinois is kind of odd when it comes to gun laws. We got a B+ from the anti-gun Giffords Law Center and we’ve got a lot of restrictions.

      You need a FOID to purchase and possess:
      1. Firearms.
      2. Black powder firearms.
      3. Smokeless powder.
      4. Black powder.
      5. Primers.
      6. Percussion caps.
      7. Air guns with a velocity over 700fps
      8. Air guns with a caliber greater than .180
      9. And oddly, switchblades are now legal with a valid FOID.

      We’ve also got a 72-hour waiting period on all firearms and NFA items are banned.

      However, we don’t have state level restrictions on “scary guns” and magazine capacities. Some municipalities do though. Of lot of credit goes to the Illinois State Rifle Association for blocking assault rifle and magazine capacity bans.

  9. That guy looks like he’s making a finger gun. Isn’t that illegal in Illinois?

    1. I like the fact that of the 4 customers in the photo, he’s the only one who doesn’t looks like he’s trying to avoid having his face show up in the papers. Like everyone else in the photo is fully aware that this picture could one day be used as evidence against them.

  10. I know i’m dumb, but why hasn’t a case gone before the supreme court about federal law violating a fundamental right (to bear arms), as a punishment for something not directly related to the right being infringed (example: drugs), without having to show that it meets a compelling government interest, that it actually achieves that interest, AND does it in least restrictive means, (Strict scrutiny)?

    I don’t know how stripping the right to be dangerous, for any non violent act could pass strict scrutiny. Actually, stripping any rights as a lingering punishment seems designed to intentionally defy the concept of a “fundamental right”. You pay your “debt” through incarceration. If you are released, your debt is paid. I know the 2nd is the govts’ red-headed step child, because similar treatment of any other right would It would be unthinkable. like stripping someones right to religion because they committed a crime in their gods name, or stripping someones right to free speech for committing fraud. Hell I can’t figure out how requiring a tax stamp for a specific gun is any different than a poll tax.

    1. You’d think an enumerated right (2A) would have more strict scrutiny that one found in the shadows (abortion), but no, it’s not popular, and judges feel free to ignore it.

      OTOH, some state courts (maybe federal courts too?) have ruled it illegal to take away drivers licenses for not paying various stupid local and state fine, so there is some hope.

    2. You pay your “debt” through incarceration. If you are released, your debt is paid.

      I think you’ve highlighted your problem right here.

      Many people don’t agree that your “debt is paid” when you’re out of prison. They think it’s fair to judge you for your past crimes, and treat you differently as a result. Whether we’re talking about sex offender registries, losing voting rights, being restricted from certain careers, having your criminal history brought up in custody hearings, and so-on, Americans, at-large, do not agree that once you’ve done your time you should be a “free man”.

      Some reform efforts have taken a stab at this: automatically restoring voting rights to felons, preventing employers from asking about criminal history, and so-on, but these are all uphill battles.

      All of which is to say…

      […] because similar treatment of any other right would It would be unthinkable.

      is dead wrong, as rather then “unthinkable”, it’s common.

      1. “is dead wrong, as rather then “unthinkable”, it’s common.”

        could you give an example? Though in context I was talking about another enumerated right.

        1. I already gave you three, but sure, let’s go down the line.

          First Amendment, includes Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Religion.

          Depending on who you talk to, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Religion were killed in 1964 by the Civil Rights Act. Freedom of Speech is frequently curbed (Reason talks about this all the time).

          Second Amendment, right to bear arms. Do I really need to give examples on this?

          Fourth, search/seizure and warrants. Constantly violated. SCOTUS has given approval over and over.

          Fifth, self-incrimination. Did you know that courts have said it’s not self incrimination to force you to unlock your phone? They can legally force you to enter your unlock PIN on your phone to get evidence against you, and that’s not “self incrimination”.

          Sixth Amendment. Speedy and public trial. Given how many people sit behind bars for months or years because they can’t afford to pay bail, and the court just sits on actually trying them, I think we can call this one a dead letter.

          9th Amendment. We’ve had SCOTUS justices say it’s meaningless, that if it’s not enumerated they don’t care.

          10th Amendment. Federalism. Dead for over a century.

          13th Amendment. Depending on your view of non-discrimination laws, this has been dead since 1964. It’s a popular view around here.

          And so-on.

          Curbing rights is easy and common.

          1. I am not saying they don’t violate rights commonly through the process, in instances or through idiotic interpretation. It seems like only the 2nd has a codified punishment via full revocation. You don’t blatantly loose your legal right to any of the others you mentioned for a non affiliated crime. Well maybe association with other “criminals”. You are never punished with: (since that you were convicted last time, you no longer have the right against self-incrimination.) Again, I’m not saying they don’t torture logic and redefine whatever they want to, in order to make the law what they wish it to be. Only that unlike the others, they “recognize” your rights in the 2A only to completely strip it from your at their convenience.

            1. Right, I get your question now.

              Yes. If you tailor your question narrowly enough, you can make the 2nd Amendment seem like it’s being picked on where the others aren’t.

              But if you take a step back, you see it’s not being singled out for special treatment. Which is the problem, because the status quo is pretty shitty.

              For that matter, even while the 3rd Amendment hasn’t generally been impinged on, that’s not because there’s unusual reverence for it, just that it hasn’t been relevant in some 200 years. The status quo is shitty, so if the 3rd Amendment is ever relevant again, you can expect it to get the shit-stick too.


                “The United Nations is hiring in New York. What positions are they trying to fill?


                If I was the type to buy in to conspiracies, I would be looking for the next omnibus bill to have a buried clause saying allowing UN liaisons carrying out lawful duty to be stationed in private dwellings. That should meet the “prescribed by law” clause in 3A. Fully legal and true to the wording of the amendment, if not the intent.

      2. Agreed.

        Also… the payment of your debt has just begun when you leave prison. They literally make you foot part of the bill after being incarcerated. Unless you come from money, you leave prison in literal debt because of this practice.

        This is just another way that a few people (government contractors) capitalize on the literal caging of American citizens. There’s money to be made in debt traps – and this is the worst one of them all. And the American public cheers for it. Some of my fellow Americans make me sick.

  11. IL didn’t “legalize pot” They monetized it. If it was legal, I could grow it in my garden without having to have a medical card.

  12. There is no sunset date on being a dope “user,” so far as the Federal prohibition on gun possession is concerned.

    The same Illinois government which infringes your civil rights today will infringe your civil rights tomorrow, and the only question is how MUCH infringement you will have to suffer, and what arbitrary rules they will follow in doing so.

    No matter how loudly they promise TODAY that state-legal use of marijuana won’t affect gun ownership, TOMORROW is what matters. Think of how many more thousand people they will be able to deny rights to if they can draw people into voluntarily registering themselves as dope users!

  13. BATF is known to seize Form 4473 Firearm Transaction Records during FFL (gun shop) inspections, or copy/photograph them, in violation of law. Why might Medical MJ records be more sacrosanct to government inspectors?

  14. since FedGov have NO authority per the US Constitution to deal with either firearms or any thing we may or may not put into our bodies by any means, the whole MJ + Glock/AR 15 is wrong from the get go. But then, so was the immolation of eighty some folks on private land outside of Waco Texas Both happen on a regular basis, despite the FACT neither should, or may under law.

  15. This pretty much makes everyone in Florida a felon, not that we give a fuck.
    _Florida Man

  16. By god if they let them have their guns then the gun amendment creates a great inequality to all other people classified as felons and our laws should be fair and equal to all!!!!

  17. To know why the Arabs want to clean up Israel

  18. You’re not a felon until you are actually convicted. So this isn’t actually some kind of new or unusual policy.

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