Medical marijuana patients cannot purchase firearms or ammunition, says federal law

Irina Baranova

MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) – Across Mississippi, thousands of people with health conditions are hoping to obtain medical marijuana once it becomes available later this year.

On Wednesday, the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act was made official. With it, comes several policies and regulations put in place by state lawmakers. However, some regulations are out of their hands.

READ MORE: Medical Marijuana FAQ: Who can use it? Who can sell it? How to get it?

Because medical marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, anyone with a license to use cannabis is not allowed to possess or purchase firearms and ammunition. That law is regardless of whether or not an individual state has legalized the substance.

The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, however, says that no state or local agency will prevent medical marijuana patients from obtaining or possessing a firearm, stating:

“A registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver shall not be denied the right to own, purchase or possess a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition based solely on his or her status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver. No state or local agency, municipal or county governing authority shall restrict, revoke, suspend or otherwise infringe upon the right of a person to own, purchase or possess a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition or any related firearms license or certification based solely on his or her status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver.”

According to federal law, it is unlawful for an unauthorized user of a controlled substance, including marijuana, to possess, ship, transport, or receive firearms or ammunition. It is also unlawful to sell a firearm or ammunition to any person if the seller knows or has reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of marijuana. In this context, unlawful use is based on federal law so all users of marijuana are considered unlawful.

In a 2011 open letter from the ATF regarding Federal Firearms Licenses, the federal agency addressed medical marijuana directly. Referencing 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), the ATF said anyone attempting to purchase a firearm should answer “yes” to question 11.e on the Firearms Transaction Record Revisions form, known as Form 4473.

In order to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, an individual must complete Form 4473. That form also includes a warning that the recreational and medical use of cannabis under state law does not alter the federal Controlled Substances Act which makes it illegal to possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana. It is a separate crime to lie about your marijuana use on the form. You can also be subject to heightened criminal penalties if found in possession of a firearm and marijuana at the same time.

For those who are able to get a medical marijuana card, it may be possible for law enforcement to obtain information from a patient registry or state database. According to Section 12 of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, a patient verification system must be in place that allow a medical cannabis establishments to share a patient’s registry identification numbers with law enforcement personnel.

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