Nikki Fried, the only Democrat among Florida's statewide elected officials, might seem like an unlikely champion of the Second Amendment. But as Florida's commissioner of agriculture and consumer affairs, Fried oversees medical marijuana and concealed carry permits, both of which are affected by a federal law that prohibits cannabis consumers from owning guns. That ban, Fried argues in a federal lawsuit she filed in April, is illegal and unconstitutional.
"I'm suing the Biden Administration because people's rights are being limited," Fried announced on Twitter. "Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is about people's rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both."
In addition to her Second Amendment claim, Fried argues that the ban on gun possession by marijuana users violates a congressional spending rider that bars the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana programs. Florida, where voters approved medical use of cannabis in 2016, is one of 37 states with such programs. Fried is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida for an injunction barring federal officials from enforcing the gun restrictions against "state medical marijuana patients."
Under current law, cannabis consumers who receive or possess firearms are committing a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Falsely denying marijuana use on the form required to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer is another felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The form 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."
In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that blocking 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." That decision, Fried argues, suffered from "a thin and stale factual record" and ignored a 2013 study commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy that found "marijuana use does not induce violent crime." She says "the stated factual basis" for the 9th Circuit's ruling and similar decisions, "at least as it relates to state-law-abiding medical marijuana patients, is obsolete and without scientific support."
Fried will be running against Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, if she wins the Democratic nomination this August. But on this issue, they see eye to eye. The governor's office said he agrees that "Floridians should not be deprived of a constitutional right for using a medication lawfully."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "A Democrat Challenges the Gun Ban for Marijuana Users".