A customer looks at rifles at a Colorado gun shop in this January 2016 file photo (Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stands firm on banning marijuana users from buying guns, despite the growing list of states legalizing the drug in some form.
The agency released a revised version of Form 4473 earlier this month, explicitly warning gun buyers “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.”
The language reflects the legislative changes sweeping the country at the state level since the form was last updated in 2012, according to the ATF.
Some 26 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana in some form, according to Governing Magazine. Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine approved recreational use of the drug on Election Day, joining Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota will also implement medical marijuana programs within the coming months.
“We were concerned that some buyers who use marijuana may read the 2012 language asking if they were an ‘unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana’ and erroneously say no because in that particular state, marijuana has been legalized,” Lisa Meiman, an ATF public information officer, told The Cannabist last week. “Most dealers recognize that marijuana use prohibits people from purchasing firearms under federal law, but many members of the general public may not be as familiar with the Gun Control Act.”
Roger Martin, with the non-profit organization Grow for Vets, told ABC News 13 in Colorado Springs, the ATF’s position “is intentionally prejudice against veterans.”
“Personally for 10 years, I took 180 mg a day of oxycontin,” he said. “And I was certainly a lot more dangerous I think to be in possession of a firearm than utilizing cannabis to be able to sleep at night.”
The agency pins its stance on an August federal court ruling in the case of S. Rowan Wilson, a Nevada medical marijuana patient who said the ban violated her Second Amendment rights. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, unanimously deciding that pot and other drug use “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
It’s the same position the ATF held in a 2011 open letter to gun dealers banning the sale to users despite existing state laws to the contrary.
Charles Rainey, Wilson’s attorney, told Courthouse News Service in September, the case isn’t over.
“We are going to litigate this, exhaust whatever remedies we have,” he said. “When this letter was issued, it was issued as part of a deliberate attempt by the (U.S. Department of Justice) to quell a political movement.”