FACT CHECK: Will medical marijuana users in Missouri be able to buy guns?


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With the passage of Amendment 2, medical marijuana is on its way to Missouri.

The state is the 33rd to legalize marijuana in some form, but there are still several questions regarding the practical implementation of the state constitutional amendment, especially where it runs up against federal law.

A Nov. 12 tweet from the Missouri Libertarian Party raised the issue of legal gun purchasing for those who use medical marijuana.

The tweet says: “Just to be on the safe side make sure and buy all of the guns you ever need if you plan on getting a medical marijuana card.” It was linked to a KMBC article and a corresponding Facebook thread.

Because this statement was more of a warning than a claim to check, we decided not to use our Truth-O-Meter to rate it.

Instead, we want to take a deeper look to see what will happen with those wanting to purchase a gun and use medical marijuana.

A federal issue

The problem appears to boil down to a simple question: Can you legally purchase and possess a weapon if you also use medical marijuana?

The amendment allows for the personal use of marijuana in medical cases and establishes regulations pertaining to licensing and certification of marijuana in the state. Retail sales will be taxed at 4 percent, and it might be sometime in late 2019 or 2020 before dispensaries are set up, according to Kansas City Star reporting.

This tax is expected to generate nearly $24 million annually.

A 2011 letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, outlining laws and regulations relating to gun ownership for marijuana users seems fairly straightforward.

It states that under the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

New Approach Missouri spokesman John Cardetti said that “this becomes increasingly problematic when purchasing a firearm, specifically when filling out the ATF’s form 4473.”

A quick glance at question 11e makes the federal stance on the issue even more clear.

It states “Warning: 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.”

ATF Kansas City public information officer John Ham pointed out that it is both purchasing and possession of the weapon that would be illegal.

“There have been legal challenges to this federal prohibition in other states, but so far those have not been successful,” Cardetti said.

But Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws, said the enforcement of the law is more spotty.

“NORML is aware of no concerted effort in any legal jurisdiction on the part of federal officials to seize firearms access or prosecute those who legally possess firearms solely for their participation in the state’s medical cannabis registry,” he said.

Even Ham confirmed that the ATF knows “of no concerted effort. Federal law prohibits the ATF of maintaining any sort of database. Really, you couldn’t do it.”

So can you buy a gun and use medical marijuana?

Although the federal laws exist and are quite clear in stating that you cannot lawfully purchase a firearm if you are a medical marijuana user, there appears to be no distinct effort to enforce the current federal laws on the books, leaving this one slightly up in the air.

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