Republicans in the House have introduced the first piece of marijuana reform legislation for the 118th Congress, which would make it legal for people with medicinal marijuana cards to buy and keep weapons.
The legislation, proposed by Republican West Virginia representative Alex Mooney, looks to be identical to a bill that was introduced in 2019 but ultimately failed to pass. Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) and Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) are among the bill’s co-sponsors.
Mooney introduced the “Second Amendment Protection Act” in the 116th Congress, and while we don’t have access to the entire text of the measure just yet, we do know its short title. Whether or if it has been revised since that version is not evident.
However, as the title suggests, the proposal intends to alter federal law on the “sale, purchase, shipment, receipt, or possession of a firearm or ammunition by a user of medicinal marijuana.”
In its current form, federal law prohibits anybody who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to” a federally restricted substance from buying or having a firearm, including medical marijuana users in line with state law.
Except that “an individual shall not be treated as an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance based on the individual’s use of marihuana for a medical purpose in accordance with state law,” the original bill stated that people who use illegal controlled substances would still be unable to obtain a firearm.
The following question is included on a form required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) prior to most gun transactions in order to enforce the present prohibition:
“Are you a regular user of marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or other controlled substance, or do you have a history of illegal drug use or addiction? Even if marijuana has been decriminalized or made legal for medical purposes in the state where you currently reside, Federal law still prohibits its use and possession.
The necessity for cannabis reform in 2019 with an emphasis on guns was discussed by Massie in an interview with Marijuana Moment, and he hinted at his support for legislation to abolish the current policy for patients.
Advocates, lawmakers, and state officials have all argued that the restriction unfairly targets those who use medical marijuana and requires them to choose between giving up a constitutional right or obtaining firearms through other, possibly illegal, means.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), whom Mast succeeded as co-chair of the Republican Cannabis Caucus, had introduced a bill in the previous Congress to safeguard the Second Amendment rights of all lawful marijuana consumers, not just patients.
A short section clarifying that “the term ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any restricted substance’ must not include a person by reason of unlawful use or addiction to marijuana” would have been introduced to federal law thanks to the Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act.
Only those who reside in a state or tribal jurisdiction that legalizes marijuana for adults and who do not break the local cannabis laws would have qualified for the exemption.
Lawmakers from both parties and both houses of Congress discussed putting the change in a package of modest marijuana changes known as “SAFE Plus” that they planned to achieve during the latter days of the 115th Congress. However, that did not come to pass.
After months of back and forth, in November, a district court judge rejected the lawsuit that had been led by Nikki Fried, Florida’s then-agriculture commissioner, in a bid to secure gun rights for medicinal cannabis patients. Since then, Fried has filed an appeal.
When asked by Marijuana Moment, Fried clarified that the lawsuit’s goal was not to increase access to firearms. She and her main allies in the gun reform movement see this as a question of constitutionality that, if decided in their favor, would increase public safety.
Since “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals were able to obtain firearms illegally in Michigan, the ATF issued a recommendation in 2020 mandating federal background checks for all unlicensed gun buyers. The advisory especially targeted the state of Michigan.