WASHINGTON, DC — A bill has been introduced in Congress that would override a 2011 ruling by the ATF that says it is illegal for medical marijuana patients to buy or own guns.
Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado) introduced HR 3483, the Protecting Individual Liberties and States’ Rights Act, on Thursday, and it was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for review.
The text of the bill is not yet available, but the summary of the bill states that the intent of the proposal is “to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide exceptions from the firearm prohibitions otherwise applicable in relation to marijuana if its possession is lawful under State law.”
Update: the full text of the bill has now been posted online.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ruled in September 2011 that it illegal for registered medical marijuana patients to buy or own guns. In a memo released at the time, federal firearms dealers were notified that medical marijuana patients are “addicts” or “unlawful drug users” who cannot legally own weapons or ammunition.
“Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether or not his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or is addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition,” Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, wrote in the memo.
A medical marijuana registration card alone is proof enough to deny a weapons sale, the Herbert said.
Due to the current conflict between state and federal drug laws, many medical marijuana dispensary owners operating within the boundaries of their state marijuana laws have faced additional weapons charges following federal raids on their businesses.
In one of the highest profile cases to date, Montana Cannabis operator Chris Williams was facing 80 years in federal prison after being convicted on eight federal marijuana and weapons charges in 2012.
Williams was not convicted of using his firearms or even of brandishing them, but merely of having legal shotguns present at the medical marijuana grow, which was legal under Montana law. He received a five year sentence in February.