Published 4 hours ago April 21, 2023 Kyle Jaeger
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A Republican congressman filed a bill on Thursday’s 4/20 cannabis holiday to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states, allowing them to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from having under federal law.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, reintroduced the Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act on Thursday—one of the latest in a series of cannabis proposals to be filed in the run-up to the 4/20 holiday.
The bill—which was previously led by the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who Mast replaced as a Cannabis Caucus leader—would amend federal statute to make it so marijuana consumers would not be considered an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance if they reside in a state that legalized cannabis.
As it stands, people who admit to being an “unlawful user” of marijuana are barred from buying, possessing or selling firearms—a federal policy that’s recently been challenged in several federal courts and deemed unconstitutional by at least two.
“No one should be forced to choose between their rights: you have a right to bear arms, and in many states, you have a right to use cannabis,” Mast said in a press release. “Congress needs to legislate based on reality, and the reality is that those who legally use marijuana are being treated as second-class citizens. That’s not acceptable. Government exists to protect the rights of the people, and that’s what this bill does.”
Federal law enforcement doesn’t actively screen gun owners for substance use, but a question on a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form asks would-be gun purchasers: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” It’s a felony to lie on the form.
The gun and marijuana issue has come to the fore in a number of federal courts over the past year, with the Justice Department being forced to defend the ban’s constitutionality, especially in light of a U.S. Supreme Court case where justices generally created a higher standard for policies that seek to impose restrictions on gun rights.
In February, a federal judge declared that the ban prohibiting people who use marijuana from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, saying that the federal government’s justification for upholding the law is “concerning.” DOJ is appealing that decision.
“Addressing this issue is of particular importance to the veteran community,” Mast said. “No veteran that I know wants to be forced to choose between a viable treatment option for conditions like PTSD, and the ability to protect themselves and their families. The GRAM Act is about ensuring no one has to make that choice.”
The congressman also defended the legislation during an appearance on Fox Business, reiterating that cannabis consumers are “being treated like second-class citizens—whether it’s with gun ownership or whether it’s with the banking system or a host of different things.”
“We need to move past this era of prohibition just like happened with alcohol previously in our country’s history,” he said. “That has to be the point that we get to with cannabis use in America.”
Mast is also cosponsoring a separate bill from Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) this session that would more narrowly allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.
For example, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have filed a bill to incentive state and local marijuana expungements with a federal grant program.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) filed a measure this week that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to claim federal tax deductions that are available to other industries. He told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that he believes the reform would ultimately generate revenue for the government.
On Wednesday, bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers refiled bills to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans.
Last week, Joyce and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) filed a measure designed to prepare the federal government for marijuana legalization, directing the attorney general to form a commission to study and make recommendations about regulating cannabis in a way similar to alcohol.
Lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), marked the 4/20 holiday by speaking about the path forward for cannabis legislation at an event that took place inside the Capitol Building. Schumer talked about plans to refile his federal legalization bill and continue working on a package of cannabis banking and expungements legislation.