Does marijuana use alter a person’s ability to safely own and use a firearm? It may seem like an easy question to answer, but it is more complicated than you might suspect. With the current trend regarding medical and recreational use, people are asking, ‘should cannabis users lose their gun rights?’ Some argue that cannabis should be treated no differently than alcohol, but due to its federal classification, the ethics and practicality of gun ownership for marijuana users is becoming a difficult legal question to answer.

As of January 2018, Pennsylvania’s first dispensary is up and running, enabling qualified patients to purchase and use marijuana to treat their illnesses. (Seventeen medical conditions have been approved for marijuana treatment in Pennsylvania.) Yet, this is in direct contradiction to federal law, which still views marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. This makes cannabis entirely illegal under federal law, and the current administration has stated that it will enforce the law as it sees fit.

What does this have to do your right to own a gun? Well, if you own firearms in Pennsylvania and have been approved to use marijuana, you could be exposed to some serious problems, such as the forfeiture of your guns or possible criminal firearm charges. This makes it essential to review your firearm rights and ensure you are protected from the worst-case scenario.

If you’re charged with a gun crime because you are a medical marijuana user in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Fienman Defense right away. Call (215) 839-9529 or submit a request online to schedule a free consultation with attorney Michael Fienman.

Federal Law on Marijuana and Guns

According to Federal law, anyone who illegally uses any controlled substance or may be addicted to a drug is barred from owning firearms or ammunition. There is no exception for marijuana, even if it is legal within a state. As a result, federal law prohibits marijuana users from purchasing or possessing a gun. Despite the growing trend in favor of medical and even recreational marijuana, the federal government views marijuana the same as it does heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is seen as more dangerous than Schedule II drugs, which include opioids like OxyContin and fentanyl.

What Does This Mean for Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania State Police say patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program will not be able to purchase firearms, though it will not be the background check that stops you. Pennsylvania recently decided that the state’s medical marijuana registry will not be available for state law enforcement officers. This is because the state is treating marijuana like any other medication and is choosing to protect patient privacy. Your place on the registry will not come up during a federal background check that is required to purchase a gun. However, if you try to purchase a firearm from a federal firearms license holder, such as a gun shop you will be required to complete a Firearms Transaction Record, otherwise called Form 4473. On this form, you will have to specify whether you use marijuana. An honest answer of “yes” on Form 4473 will put an end to the transaction. You should not lie on this form.

The state police also announced it will be illegal to retain a previously purchased gun after enrollment in the medical marijuana program, and relevant patients should dispose of their firearms. This stance is likely to run up against an enforcement issue. While, Pennsylvania police officers can enforce the law on this issue, the only way an officer can verify that you are marijuana user enrolled in the state medical marijuana program is to see your patient registration card.

Never Assume You Will Get Away with Something

Due to the potential enforcement issues, you may assume that you can safely keep your gun and register for the program. But, this is a dangerous position to be in. Knowingly violating federal law could lead to serious criminal charges. This issue will likely need to be resolved through the court system before real clarification is gained. In the meantime, and though it can be a tough pill to swallow, you are better off doing what you can to comply with both federal and state law.

If you have been charged with a crime and have questions about your firearm rights under Pennsylvania or federal law, do not hesitate to call attorney Michael Fienman. As a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s committee relating to medical marijuana law, attorney Fienman is dedicated to representing individuals faced with the legal challenges surrounding the legalization of medical cannabis and ensuring that his clients’ rights are preserved.

If you are facing a criminal investigation or charges because of federal gun laws, we are here to represent you. Call us today at (215) 839-9529 to schedule a time to talk.

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