Judge strikes down gun ban for marijuana consumers

Published on February 6, 2023
A federal judge in Oklahoma has struck down the federal law preventing marijuana consumers from owning firearms. (AdobeStock)

Although federal law explicitly prohibits all Americans who consume or possess marijuana from purchasing or possessing a firearm, a judge in Oklahoma late last week declared that ban unconstitutional.

On February 3, U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick—an appointee of former President Trump—dismissed an indictment against a man named Jared Michael Harrison. 

Last May, police in Lawton, Oklahoma, pulled over Harrison’s car after he allegedly failed to stop at a red light. They found a loaded revolver and marijuana inside. Police officers also observed that Harrison wore an ankle monitor; he had been placed on probation for aggravated assault. Harrison further told the police officer that he works at a medical marijuana dispensary, but did not possess a medical card.

Judge Wyrick’s decision to dismiss Harrison’s case comes on the heels of other gun-related cases, including an influential Supreme Court decision, that reaffirmed the scope of the Second Amendment.

Judge says the ban violates the Second Amendment

In his written decision, Wyrick agreed with Harrison’s lawyers that the statute in question was “unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the Due Process Clause, and unconstitutionally infringes upon his fundamental right to possess a firearm, in violation of the Second Amendment.”

The Second Amendment reads, in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“It bears repeating that all the United States would have to prove at trial to justify depriving Harrison of his right to possess a firearm is that he is a user of marijuana. But the mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports,” Judge Wyrick wrote.

Why does the firearms ban even exist?

The debate in Harrison’s case stems from the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits any “unlawful user” of a controlled substance from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition. Since marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level, no Americans—even those in legal states—are immune from the policy.

Anyone purchasing a firearm must complete a registration form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that asks if they are an “unlawful” user of marijuana. If they check “yes,” the ATF will deny their firearms application. Furthermore, applicants can face federal charges for lying on the form.

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Bipartisan attempts to change the policy have failed

Other lawmakers and state officials have contested the Gun Control Act, but none have succeeded. 

In April 2022, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) sued the Biden Administration to allow medical patients’ access to firearms. “Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both,” Fried stated at the time.

The Roll-up #239: Nikki Fried tells us why she’s suing Joe Biden over cannabis and guns

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed her suit last November; Fried has since appealed the decision.

Furthermore, the late Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced the GRAM Act in 2021. It would have ended the gun ban in legal marijuana states. 

Last year, proponents of cannabis reform in the US Senate attempted to attach a trio of cannabis bills, including GRAM, to the National Defense Authorization Act, but did not succeed. 

Rep. Mooney pushes to end the prohibition for medical patients

Last month, US Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) re-introduced his Second Amendment Protection Act to allow medical marijuana patients to purchase and possess firearms. The bill failed to gain momentum in past sessions, but could fare differently in a GOP-led House.

“The beauty of [Mooney’s bill is], it’s not a marijuana bill, it’s a gun bill, if you’re a Republican,” the conservative cannabis lobbyist Don Murphy recently told Leafly.

The fate of Mooney’s bill remains to be seen. In the meantime, as Reuters reports, the US Department of Justice will likely appeal Wyrick’s decision to dismiss Harrison’s case in Oklahoma.

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Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.
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