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Justice Department Appeals Court Decision That Struck Down Gun Rights Ban For Marijuana Consumers

The U.S. government is appealing a federal judge’s recent ruling that deemed the ban prohibiting people who use marijuana from possessing firearms to be unconstitutional.


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By

Kyle Jaeger March 6 2023


In a filing submitted on Friday, the Justice Department informed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that it would be challenging the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.


The two-page document from U.S. Attorney Robert Troester and Assistant U.S. Attorney David McCrary does not touch on the reasoning behind the appeal, which will be fleshed out in a subsequent filing before the appeals court.


The development comes about a month after Judge Patrick Wyrick dismissed an indictment against Jared Michael Harrison, who was charged in Oklahoma in 2022 after police discovered cannabis and a handgun in his vehicle during a traffic stop.

The federal court had determined that the statute banning “unlawful” users of marijuana from possessing firearms violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The Trump-appointed judge largely based his decision on an interpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the justices generally created a higher standard for policies that seek to impose restrictions on gun rights.


The ruling states that any such restrictions must be consistent with the historical context of the Second Amendment’s original 1791 ratification.


The historical analogues that the Justice Department relied on to make the case that the ban is consistent—including references to antiquated case law preventing Catholics, loyalists, slaves and Indians from having guns—”misses the mark” and “cannot provide the basis for a historical analogue,” the judge said in last month’s ruling.


DOJ made similar arguments about historical precedent in a separate, ongoing federal lawsuit that was raised by former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) and several medical cannabis patients. Those patients are actively appealing a ruling from a federal district court that dismissed their suit in November.


Advocates have argued that the fight to end the federal ban for cannabis consumers isn’t about expanding gun rights, per se. Rather, it’s a matter of constitutionality and public safety.

Supporters of the Florida lawsuit have argued that the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (ATF) requirement effectively creates an incentive for cannabis consumers to either lie on the form, buy a gun on the illicit market or simply forgo their right to bear arms.

In 2020, ATF issued an advisory specifically targeting Michigan that requires gun sellers to conduct federal background checks on all unlicensed gun buyers because it said the state’s cannabis laws had enabled “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals to obtain firearms illegally.


In light of the federal court’s ruling last month, a GOP Pennsylvania senator recently encouraged law enforcement to take steps to remove state barriers to gun ownership for cannabis consumers, focusing on medical marijuana patients.


In Maryland, a key House committee also held a hearing last month on a bill to protect gun rights for medical cannabis patients in the state.

Meanwhile, a GOP congressman filed a bill in January that seeks to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms. The legislation was also introduced in the 116th Congress but was not ultimately enacted.


Read the federal government’s notice of appeal in the cannabis and gun rights ruling below:


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