Medical Marijuana and Firearm Possession in Florida - an Unexpected Side Effect

Article Summary

  1. With news from Manatee County this week that its first medical marijuana dispensary will be opening, those seeking to utilize the substance for the treatment of one of the specifically identified illnesses under the law should be aware of this: the use of medical marijuana would inhibit one’s ability to own and possess a firearm in Florida.
  2. In September 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) sent an open letter to all federal firearms licensees (i.e. gun shops) reminding them that it is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of a firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance.
  3. The federal agency added a warning to this form making it clear to anyone applying for a permit to buy a gun that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and using it means you cannot buy a gun despite laws in many states that allow medical and recreational use of the drug.
  4. You will not be in compliance with both state and federal law by having a medical marijuana card and/or using medical marijuana together with possession of a firearm.
  5. Until federal law deals with the issue of marijuana as a controlled substance, the conflict with firearms laws, which are predominately governed by federal law, will continue.

In November 2016, by a voting margin of more than 60 percent, Florida became one of 20 states that will allow the use of medical marijuana. Initial estimates from the Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research indicate there may be as many as 440,000 Floridians using medical marijuana at full implementation of the program.  

With news from Manatee County this week that its first medical marijuana dispensary will be opening, those seeking to utilize the substance for treatment of one of the specifically identified illnesses under the law should be aware of this: the use of medical marijuana would inhibit one’s ability to own and possess a firearm in Florida. 

Medical Marijuana and Firearm Possession in Florida

Presently, Federal law prohibits any person who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.” Currently, marijuana is listed in the controlled substances act as a Schedule I controlled substance with no exceptions. Thus, after lawful prescription in Florida, you are prohibited from having any contact with a firearm and ammunition.  

Furthermore, those utilizing medical marijuana will find roadblocks to purchasing firearms at gun shops in Florida. In September 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) sent an open letter to all federal firearms licensees (i.e. gun shops) reminding them that it is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of a firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance. 

Presently, federal firearm licensees utilize ATF Form 4473 for the purchase of all firearms. The federal agency added a warning to this form making it clear to anyone applying for a permit to buy a gun that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and using it means you cannot buy a gun despite laws in many states that allow medical and recreational use of the drug.

Question 11e on Form 4473 asks if the buyer is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana … or any other controlled substance?” The form goes on to warn potential gun owners that, “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

Even if you have received a medical marijuana card but have not utilized medical marijuana, you are likely to fall under the prohibition on owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition based on recent case law. It is also likely that any concealed weapons permit obtained from Florida would be null and void based upon receipt of a medical marijuana card and/or use of medical marijuana.  

Florida residents anticipating the use of medical marijuana once it becomes available should carefully consider whether first, they currently possess any firearms. You will not be in compliance with both state and federal law by having a medical marijuana card and/or using medical marijuana together with possession of a firearm. Second, Florida residents should not consider attempting to purchase a firearm if they have received a medical marijuana card and/or are presently lawfully using medical marijuana. Until federal law deals with the issue of marijuana as a controlled substance, the conflict with firearms laws, which are predominately governed by federal law, will continue.

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