Federal Court Strikes Down Gun Ban For People Who Use Marijuana, Calling Government’s Justification ‘Concerning’
A federal judge has declared that the ban prohibiting people who use marijuana from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, saying that the federal government’s justification for upholding the law is “concerning.”
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Friday dismissed an indictment against a man who was charged in Oklahoma in 2022 after police discovered marijuana and a handgun in his vehicle during a traffic stop. In doing so, Judge Patrick Wyrick agreed with attorneys that the statute banning “unlawful” users of cannabis from possessing firearms violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
This decision comes as the ban continues to be challenged in a separate federal court in a lawsuit that was raised by former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) and several medical cannabis patients.
For this case, the Trump-appointed judge largely based his decision on an interpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the justices generally created a higher standard for policies that seek to impose restrictions on gun rights.
The ruling states that any such restrictions must be consistent with the historical context of the Second Amendment’s original 1791 ratification.
The historical analogues that the Justice Department relied on to make the case that the ban is consistent—including references to antiquated case law preventing Catholics, loyalists, slaves and Indians from having guns—”misses the mark” and “cannot provide the basis for a historical analogue,” the judge said in Friday’s ruling.
It also addressed the government’s position that people who unlawfully use marijuana are “both unvirtuous and dangerous.” Wyrick said that “because the mere use of marijuana does not involve violent, forceful, or threatening conduct, a user of marijuana does not automatically fall within that group.”
The government has made similar arguments in the Florida-based case, where medical cannabis patients are actively appealing a ruling from a federal district court that dismissed their suit against DOJ in November.
Will Hall, an attorney working that case on behalf of the plaintiffs, told Marijuana Moment on Monday that they are “aware of” the new ruling and “plan to address it in our subsequent filings.”
Fried also weighed in on the decision. Though she is no longer directly involved in the related suit, and her successor has declined to join it in her stead, she tweeted on Sunday that “when you are right, you are right.”
When you are right, you are right. We will win this battle and protect cannabis users rights. https://t.co/ynYWzL1rUy
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) February 5, 2023
The Department of Justice will likely appeal Wyrick’s ruling to a higher federal court.
Advocates have argued that the fight to end the federal ban for cannabis consumers isn’t not about expanding gun rights, per se. Rather, it’s a matter of constitutionality and public safety.
Supporters of the Florida lawsuit have argued that the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (ATF) requirement effectively creates an incentive for cannabis consumers to either lie on the form, buy a gun on the illicit market or simply forgo a constitutional right.
In 2020, ATF issued an advisory specifically targeting Michigan that requires gun sellers to conduct federal background checks on all unlicensed gun buyers because it said the state’s cannabis laws had enabled “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals to obtain firearms illegally.
Meanwhile, a GOP congressman recently filed a bill that seeks to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms. The legislation was also introduced in the 116th Congress but was not ultimately enacted.
Read the latest filings in the federal case on the gun ban for marijuana consumers below:
Lawmakers Must ‘Step Up’ And Address Federal-State Marijuana Conflict, Trucking Executive Tells Congress Amid Labor Shortage