Hours after the governor of Minnesota signed a marijuana legalization bill into law on Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a reminder that people who use cannabis remain federally banned from purchasing and possessing guns.
The ATF St. Paul Field Division said in the warning notice that “until” marijuana is federally legalized, statute stipulates that people who actively consume cannabis are still subject to the firearms prohibition—a policy that’s being challenged in several federal courts.
“Until marijuana is legalized federally, firearms owners and possessors should be mindful that it remains federally illegal to mix marijuana with firearms and ammunition,” ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Reed said.
“As regulators of the firearms industry and enforcers of firearms laws, we felt it was important to remind Minnesotans of this distinction as the marijuana laws adjust here in the State of Minnesota,” he said.
Regardless of the recent changes in Minnesota law related to marijuana, an individual who is a current user of marijuana is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition. Read for details:https://t.co/qS9rBdKyzb pic.twitter.com/TgAOXxQzCX
— ATF St. Paul (@ATFStPaul) May 30, 2023
ATF also pointed out that it issued clarifying guidance in 2011 emphasizing that “it is unlawful to transfer a firearm to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance,” regardless of state cannabis laws.
That firearms ban for cannabis consumers is being litigated in several federal courts, including one where the judge declared in February that the prohibition is unconstitutional.
The government has since appealed that decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
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.
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Meanwhile, even as ATF maintains that it must enforce the ban, the agency recently updated its own cannabis employment policy.
The update make it so applicants who’ve grown, manufactured or sold marijuana in compliance with state laws while serving in a “position of public responsibility” will no longer be automatically disqualified—whereas those who did so in violation of state cannabis policies won’t be considered.
Meanwhile, Republican congressional lawmakers have filed two bills so far this session that focus on gun and marijuana policy.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, filed legislation last month to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states, allowing them to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from having under federal law.
Mast is also cosponsoring a separate bill from Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) this session that would more narrowly allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.