Republican House lawmakers have filed the first piece of marijuana reform legislation for the 118th Congress, proposing to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.
Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) introduced the bill, which appears to be the same as a measure originally filed in 2019 that did not advance. It’s being cosponsored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who is a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) .
While the full text isn’t yet available, the bill shares the short title of the “Second Amendment Protection Act” that Mooney filed in the 116th Congress. It’s unclear if it’s been amended from that version.
But as the title explains, the measure seeks to amend federal statute as it concerns the “sale, purchase, shipment, receipt, or possession of a firearm or ammunition by a user of medical marijuana.”
As it stands, people who use cannabis—even as a patient in compliance with state law—are barred from purchasing or possessing guns because they’re considered “an unlawful user of or addicted to” a federally controlled substance.
The earlier version of the bill said that people who use illegal controlled substances still wouldn’t be able to obtain a firearm—“except that an individual shall not be treated as an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance based on the individual using marihuana for a medical purpose in accordance with state law.”
To enforce the current prohibition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) includes the following question on a form that must be filled out prior to most gun purchases:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? Warning: the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
Massie spoke to Marijuana Moment about the need for gun-focused cannabis reform in 2019, previewing plans to back legislation to end the existing policy for patients.
The prohibition has been widely criticized on a bipartisan basis, with advocates, lawmakers and state officials arguing that the ban unduly discriminates against marijuana patients and forces them to either forfeit a constitutional right or obtain firearms through other, potentially illegal channels.
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Another bill that was filed last Congress by the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who Mast replaced as a GOP co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, would have protected the Second Amendment right of any lawful marijuana consumer and not just patients.
The Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act would have added a short provision to federal law specifying that “the term ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance’ shall not include a person by reason of unlawful use or addiction to marijuana.”
The exemption would have applied only to people who live in a state or tribal jurisdiction that permits the use of marijuana by adults, and only if they do not violate the local cannabis laws laws.
There was discussion of including the reform as part of a package of incremental marijuana reforms know as “SAFE Plus” that bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers had hoped to advance during the lame duck session last year. But that didn’t materialize.
Florida’s then-agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried led an effort to sue the federal government in hopes to securing firearms rights for medical cannabis patients, but a district court judge dismissed it in November after months of back-and-forth. Fried has since appealed the decision.
As Fried previously told Marijuana Moment, the lawsuit wasn’t about expanding gun rights, per se. It was a matter of constitutionality that she and other key allies in the gun reform movement feel would bolster public safety if the case ultimately goes in their favor.
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.
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