If I have a Massachusetts medical marijuana card, can I still purchase a gun?
The clash between federal and state marijuana laws isn’t going away anytime soon. Massachusetts is the latest state to join several others in legalizing recreational use of cannabis, but our medical marijuana laws have been on the books since 2012. Even so, medical marijuana users will have to make a difficult choice: Maintain treatment or keep their Second Amendment rights.
That’s because the federal government prohibits gun ownership by citizens who use or are addicted to a controlled substance, including marijuana. State legislators are silent on the question many medical marijuana card holders have been asking: “If I have a medical marijuana card, can I buy a firearm in Massachusetts?”
The short answer is No. Under federal law, being a registered medical cannabis patient means a federally licensed firearms dealer cannot sell you a gun. But there are remedial steps you can take to get back your 2nd Amendment rights.
Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts
As of this writing, there are over 53,000 residents in Massachusetts who are registered medical marijuana patients and patient caregivers. This number is expected to grow as legislation expands the number of conditions treatable under the state’s medical marijuana program (MMP).
In pertinent part, the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana law states:
“Any person meeting the requirements under this law shall not be penalized under Massachusetts law in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, for such actions.”
However, being in the program and having a medical marijuana card risks losing your guns under federal law.
The good news is that Massachusetts will not share your registration with anyone, including federal agencies.
Under Massachusetts MMP regulations, only local/state law enforcement can have an access key to the registration database. Furthermore, this access is limited to specific inquiries, such as someone’s status under the program.
Other Medical Marijuana Card Risks
Before seeking a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts, there are several legal implications you may want to think about besides gun rights. Some concerns regarding medical use will overlap into recreational use issues as well.
- You can be arrested and charged for illegally transporting medical marijuana.
- You can be arrested for OUI of prescription marijuana.
- It is illegal to carry marijuana in a school zone, regardless of authorized medical use.
- Gray Area: Medical marijuana and employer drug testing.
- Gray Area: Medical marijuana and probation violations.
- Gray Area: Medical marijuana and child custody law.
- Gray Area: Healthcare Professional –licensing and medical marijuana prescribing.
- Gray Area: All other Professionals –licensure and medical marijuana registration.
- Gray Area: Licensed Dispensaries and Banking laws.
- Gray Area: Medical Marijuana and Housing laws.
It’s also illegal to use your marijuana card for fraudulent purposes or to make money. Fraudulent use of a medical marijuana card is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail.
Making money or profiting from the card is a felony offense punishable by 2.5 years to 5 years imprisonment.
Medical Marijuana Gun Laws
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulates guns nationally. Under the Gun Control Act the ATF maintains a list of persons prohibited from possessing and purchasing firearms, which includes anyone
“Who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802).”
The Controlled Substances Act includes marijuana and makes no exceptions for medicinal usage of the drug. Violators of this law can be prosecuted in federal court for the felony offense, which carries up to 10 years prison time if convicted.
Thus, the battle between state and federal rights over marijuana ensues. For now though, a federal ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gives medicinal marijuana card holders some options…
Medical Marijuana Card and Guns
The case is Wilson v. Lynch, in which a licensed medical marijuana cardholder in California sued the federal government for infringing upon her Second Amendment rights after she was denied a gun purchase by a dealer who knew she had a medical cannabis card.
The Court ruled that the federal laws didn’t work to drastically infringe upon her rights because she was free to purchase a gun before she got her card, or after she cancelled her registration in the medical marijuana program.
What this means for MMP cardholders is that they should legally be able to purchase a firearm in Massachusetts or elsewhere so long as they are not active users with valid registrations in a medical marijuana program.
Medical marijuana card holders in Massachusetts should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney if they have further issues or questions related to the MMP and firearms.
Medical marijuana card laws remain conflicted. Until we get uniform medical marijuana gun laws from Congress or the federal agencies, medically authorized users of cannabis will need to choose between treatment and gun ownership in states that have medical marijuana programs.
If you are facing charges or think you might be brought into federal court on gun offenses, you can call my law office today to schedule an appointment for a free criminal defense consultation with me: 978-452-1116.