How Justice Thomas’s Thoughts on Marijuana Laws Might Percolate Gun Owners
(AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out Monday that federal marijuana laws “may no longer be necessary or appropriate to support the federal government’s gradual approach” to regulating the drug. His hiring could have a drastic impact on the Guns Act.
Thomas’ views were expressed in a statement on a case the Supreme Court refused to hear. In the case known as Standing Akimbo, LLC v. USA, a Colorado medical marijuana dispenser was suing for not allowing the IRS to make the same tax deductions as other companies for engaging in “controlled substances trafficking”.
According to Thomas, federal laws are ubiquitous, especially as states decriminalize and legalize the medicinal and / or recreational uses of weed.
“Once broad, the federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that both tolerates and prohibits the local use of marijuana,” wrote Thomas. “This contradicting and unstable state of affairs weighs down the basic principles of federalism and hides traps for the unwary.”
As Thomas suggests, the laws surrounding marijuana can be confusing for many people. While it is still a federal crime to use and possess marijuana, a number of states including California, Washington, and Colorado have legalized and decriminalized its use.
A local police officer can stop a resident, find weeds in the car, but not charge them with possession. But if a federal agent, like one from the DEA or ATF, comes into contact with the same person, he or she would face federal drug sentences.
Courtesy of disa.com
Thomas’s thoughts on marijuana legalization are important, especially when it comes to guns. As of now, an FFL will deny someone with a federally issued medical marijuana card based on the ATF directive. Federal agencies know cardholders are consuming marijuana, which they – you guessed it – call Prohibited Owners. This card is indisputable evidence and may show up during a background check.
If a person chooses to use marijuana while exercising their gun rights, they face 10 years in prison. Marijuana is still considered a List I substance by the federal government. According to the DEA, List I substances have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.
The classification according to Schedule I itself is hotly contested. Several NIH studies have found that two-thirds of all marijuana patients with chronic pain benefited from taking the drug. That means marijuana could be accepted for medicinal purposes.
However, the area that trips a lot of people is question 21.e on the 4473 form:
Are you an illegal user of marijuana or a sedative, stimulant, narcotic, or other controlled substance?
Warning: Marijuana use or possession remains unlawful under federal law, regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the state you reside in.
When a person goes to their local gun store to buy a firearm, they must tick this box on Form 4473 and ask whether or not they are using any form of marijuana. Checking “yes” leads to an automatic rejection. Ticking “No” if it’s a lie could result in 10 years in prison and up to a US $ 250,000 fine.
The gap between local, state, and federal marijuana laws means that a person could be obeying state laws while breaking federal laws. It also means that he or she has to choose between recreational marijuana use and their gun rights.
It is a legal trap that many who are ignorant of the federal ban can easily fall into.
And that is why Judge Thomas’ opinion is significant. He has long been one of the most conservative judges on the court. But his opinion places him on the left side of President Biden on cannabis use.
Given his conservative confidence, Thomas’s opinion on a subject like marijuana legalization carries a lot of weight. Legislators who opposed the decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level could be swayed by his opinion, as much of the country has moved in that direction over the past decade.
In April Alaska MP Don Young introduced the GRAM Act in the House of Representatives to protect the gun rights of legal marijuana users. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is in favor of decriminalization.
Whatever you think of marijuana use, a change to federal law would benefit hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of otherwise legal gun owners and their rights to keep and carry guns.