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Federal Court Strikes Down Gun Prohibition For Cannabis Users As Unconstitutional

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A federal appeals court has ruled that the ban preventing people who use marijuana from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, a decision that could open up the door to more legal challenges to gun control laws.

What Happened

A three-judge panel agreed on Wednesday to reverse the conviction of a man who'd been sentenced to nearly four years in prison after being pulled over with firearms and admitting to occasional cannabis consumption, noted Marijuana Moment, which first reported the news.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit cited a 2022 Supreme Court ruling that says firearm restrictions must be consistent with the historical context of the Second Amendment's original 1791 ratification.

The court noted that the federal government's attempts to establish a historical analogue to the marijuana gun ban fell short, stating that while the founders behind the ratification of the Second Amendment were “familiar” with cannabis plants - they “grew hemp to make rope” - they “were not familiar with widespread use of marihuana as a narcotic, nor the modern drug trade,” reported MM.

“In short, our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to carry a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage,” wrote Reagan-appointed Circuit Judge Jerry Smith. “Nor do more generalized traditions of disarming dangerous persons support this restriction on nonviolent drug users.”

The court also disputed the Justice Department’s attempt to link regular cannabis use to firearm bans for mentally ill people, saying that, at most, the analogue is only relevant to gun possession while actively impaired.

The ATF's View

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has maintained that the marijuana firearms ban is unambiguous and enforceable, even in states where marijuana has been fully legalized.

Within days after Minnesota’s legal cannabis program went into effect, the ATF let residents there know they’d have to choose between their guns and their weed.

Although the ATF did recently update its cannabis employment policy. It now states that applicants who’ve grown, manufactured or sold pot in compliance with state laws while serving in a “position of public responsibility” will no longer be automatically disqualified unless they violated their state’s state cannabis policies, in which case they’re not eligible.


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