The Biden Administration Defends the Federal Ban on Gun Possession by Medical Marijuana Users

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The Biden administration yesterday urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the ban on gun possession by medical marijuana users, saying that law is consistent with a long tradition of firearm regulation in the United States. Furthermore, the Justice Department says, that prohibition makes perfect sense because marijuana use impairs the ability to handle guns responsibly.

The government's lawyers were responding to a lawsuit by Nikki Fried, a Democrat who runs the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Fried, whose department oversees concealed carry permits and some parts of Florida's medical marijuana industry, argues that prohibiting all cannabis consumers from owning guns violates the Second Amendment. She also claims that the policy violates a congressional spending rider, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, that bars the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

As the Justice Department notes in its motion to dismiss, courts have "uniformly upheld" the federal law that criminalizes gun possession by "unlawful users" of controlled substances, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In the 2016 case Wilson v. Lynch, for example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that banning gun sales to people who have medical marijuana cards is consistent with the Second Amendment because "empirical data and legislative determinations support a strong link between drug use and violence."