Medical Marijuana, Gun Ownership, and CPLs in Michigan
It is a complex and changing area of law. We know that federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3)) makes it a felony for an “unlawful user of … any controlled substance” to “possess … any firearm or ammunition.”
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, so it is a felony for a user of marijuana to possess a firearm or ammunition. Juxtapose this with the fact that 28 states and the District of Columbia have now passed laws legalizing the medicinal and/or recreational use of marijuana.
The main question we get is: “I have a MMMA Card, can I still get a CPL and own and possess firearms?”
To get a License to Purchase a pistol or a Concealed Pistol License in Michigan, you must also pass a federal background check (NICS check). This brings federal law into the Michigan scheme of licensing. The ATF takes the position that anyone with a MMMA card is probably using and therefore they are not allowed to possess a firearm until 12 months after their last use. So, even having a card is a prohibitor in the eyes of the federal government.
Some argue that this may be a leap as a person with a MMMA card may not use marijuana the same as a CPL holder may not ever carry a pistol. The federal law has been challenged and been upheld so far. Courts have, without any real empirical evidence, assumed a connection between marijuana use and gun violence.
The Michigan database on who has a MMMA card does not talk to the State or Federal databases that are used for background checks. So, unless the person admits they have the card there is no real way for anyone to find out.
But you must fill out certain forms when you apply for a License to Purchase or CPL and you are stepping into a grey area when the marijuana question must be answered. Hopefully, we will get some clarity from new legislation or court cases in the future to make this interaction between laws more sensible.
More information about medical marijuana and firearms ownership can be found HERE.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We’re growing larger and more effective every day.
The Right to Bear Arms and Lawfully Use Medical Marijuana
Currently, there is a conflict between the right to bear arms and lawfully use medical marijuana in Michigan. Many individuals believe that anyone who obtains a medical marijuana card is precluded from owning a weapon and/or obtaining a concealed pistol license. This is because a Federal law specifically makes it unlawful for any individual who is an unlawful user of any controlled substance to ship, transport, possess, or receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce. To learn more about the conflict between the right to bear arms and lawfully use medical marijuana in Michigan, contact an attorney. Skilled medical marijuana lawyers can help clarify what this conflict can mean for you and your future.
Understanding Federal Gun Licensees
In order to clarify the conflict between the right to bear arms and lawfully use medical marijuana in Michigan, one should understand their role as a federal gun licensee. In an open letter dated September 21, 2011 and written by Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director of the Enforcement Programs and Services of the US Department of Justice, BATF, and directed to all federal firearms licensees, indicates that there are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medical purposes, even when sanctioned by state law.
The letter also indicates that it is unlawful for someone addicted to marijuana to possess either firearms or ammunition. Federal firearms licensees may not transfer firearms or ammunition to someone they know or have reasonable cause to believe may be an unlawful user of or addicted to marijuana. This is true even if the individual attempting to obtain firearm or ammunition answers no to this question on their Firearms Transaction Record.
CPLs are governed by Michigan state law and not by Federal law, and there is no specific preclusion under state law. Consequently, whether a medical marijuana cardholder may simultaneously hold a CPL remains an open question that has not yet been litigated. One state that has litigated this issue, or one close to it, is Oregon, whose Supreme Court has indicated that state sheriffs had a duty under state concealed handgun licensing law, to issue concealed carry permits to qualified applicants without regard to their use of medical marijuana.
Historical View of Marijuana and Gun Laws
The court also held that this duty was not preempted by federal Gun Control Act of 1968’s prohibition on possession of firearms by unlawful users of controlled substances. The court indicated that state sheriff’s failure to issue concealed carry licenses was not excused because such issuance to a medical marijuana user would violate a section of federal Act prohibiting the making of any statement that is likely to deceive a gun dealer regarding the lawfulness of the sale of a firearm.
In considering the interplay between these two rights, you are well advised to know that by possessing both a CPL and/or a firearm, you may be in violation of Federal law, and you may be precluded for purchasing or possessing a firearm. Many medical marijuana entrepreneurs will not be medical marijuana patients and will not be users of marijuana. The question of whether you may co-own a medical marijuana business license is a little bit different. To learn more about the conflict between the right to bear arms and lawfully use medical marijuana in Michigan, consider speaking with a knowledgeable defense attorney today.
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