A federal judge recently ruled that a government ban blocking medical marijuana users from gun ownership is unconstitutional. The ruling labeled the practice ‘concerning.’ That is an understated description for a ban that has had very real consequences on Americans across the country.
Jared Harrison of Oklahoma was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after police found marijuana and a handgun in his car while he was driving to work in 2022. Judge Patrick Wyrick of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma dismissed the indictment, agreeing with defense attorneys that the statute banning “unlawful” users of cannabis from possessing firearms violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “The mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports,” Wyrick wrote.
According to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down a gun control law in New York, any restrictions on gun ownership must be in line with a historical application of the Second Amendment.
The ban against gun ownership by medical marijuana patients is concurrently being challenged in another federal court by several medical cannabis patients. That suit was led by former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, but she left office in January, and her successor has indicated the agency will no longer be a plaintiff. Will Hall, a private attorney who assumed the case on behalf of the remaining plaintiffs, said he plans to address this new Oklahoma precedent “in our subsequent filings.”
In Harrison’s case, the prosecution argued that “disarming presumptively risky persons, namely, felons, the mentally ill, and the intoxicated” is in the public interest. Harrison’s lawyers had argued that the portion of federal firearms law focused on drug users or addicts was not consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, echoing what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
Judge Wyrick rebutted the prosecution in the Harrison case, emphasizing the fact that marijuana use does not carry any of the characteristics that are supported by the nation’s history and tradition of firearm regulation. The use of marijuana, which can be purchased legally (under state law) in more than 2,000 ordinary storefronts in Oklahoma, opined Wyrick, is not inherently violent, forceful, or threatening. It is not a “crime of violence,” nor does it involve “the actual use or threatened use of force.”
Despite the government’s authority to protect the public from dangerous people with guns, Wyrick insisted that Jared Harrison’s “mere use of marijuana does not indicate that someone is in fact dangerous, let alone analogous to a ‘dangerous lunatic.’”
Laura Deskin, a public defender representing Harrison, said the ruling was a “step in the right direction for a large number of Americans who deserve the right to bear arms and protect their homes just like any other American.”
There is no clear evidence that medical marijuana patients are any more disposed to engage in violent crime than other groups. On the contrary, the available evidence indicates that medical marijuana is associated with slightly lower crime rates. A federal ban on gun ownership by medical marijuana users would simply penalize those users on the basis of a medical condition for which a physician has recommended cannabis as treatment.
Judge Wyrick has made clear there is no public interest served by depriving lawful medical marijuana patients of the means to defend themselves. As cases related to medical marijuana users’ right to bear arms continue to pop up across the country, having this ruling as an established precedent is a positive development.