Feds spell it out: No gun for you if you fire up in a pot-legal state

Feds spell it out: No gun for you if you fire up in a pot-legal state

In Colorado, can you own a gun if you use marijuana?

The feds say no. State law is silent. And updated language from the federal department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on its gun-transaction paperwork has people once again talking about the conflict between Colorado law and federal law.

This week, the ATF said it will issue a new form that gun buyers must fill out when purchasing a firearm.

The form, which takes effect Jan. 16, 2017, includes an added warning that reads: “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.”

That warning follows original language in the form that requires a buyer to answer yes or no to a question about whether he or she is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

The AFT is required to update its forms every few years, says Lisa Meiman, a spokeswoman for the Denver division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“And since there have been so many changes to state laws since 2012 when it was last updated we took the opportunity to remind everybody what federal law has to say about marijuana use and gun ownership,” she says.

The updated warning underscores an existing conflict between state and federal laws. Multiple states have since followed Colorado’s lead in legalizing recreational marijuana, including California, Massachusetts and Nevada.

In decades past, “this wasn’t an issue because marijuana wasn’t legal anywhere,” says David Kopel, a Colorado attorney who has written books and articles about gun laws and the Second Amendment. “So they are updating the form to raise an issue that applies to people all over the country.”

But, he says, the updated language does not change anything regarding Colorado law versus federal law.

Related: Can you own a gun in Colorado if you smoke pot?

And that’s where the issue gets sticky.

Colorado law doesn’t say whether someone of the appropriate age can carry a legal firearm and a legal amount of marijuana at the same time, John Jackson, the chief of police for Greenwood Village and a former director of the state police chief’s association has said.

“If they’re 21 and they’ve got a joint, and a gun on their hip, there’s no issue there,” he told The Independent in September.

But the ATF, clearly, has a different perspective.

“Under federal law, a marijuana user cannot legally possess a firearm,” Meiman told The Independent. Not even in Colorado where marijuana is legal to have and use.

And now the ATF form will be even more clear on that point.

The feds also likely want to dispel someone from saying they were confused when filling out the form, says Tony Fabian, an attorney who has helped draft firearms legislation in Colorado.

“It’s just ATF basically taking that defense away from people,” he says, especially for those who might use marijuana for medical purposes and assume their state laws give them cover.

So, to recap: Can you lawfully have a gun in Colorado— say, a shotgun passed down to you by your uncle— and also be in possession of marijuana at the same time? The answer depends upon whom you ask. Or, more importantly, who catches you doing it.

 

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

3 Comments

  1. Will Morrison on said:

    You can be a drunk and have a gun, quite legally. You can be on prescription drugs that change your personality dramatically, and you can have a gun with no legal issues. You can even be out of your freaking mind and the feds sure aren’t going to be getting in your way if you’re in a gun store.

    But dare to smoke a joint, and suddenly your rights as a citizen are now called into question.

    Now where exactly are the 2nd amendment people who insist that we HAVE to be able to have a gun, no matter what? Are they up0set about this at all, or are they just as hypocritical as the feds on this?

  2. Rich.... on said:

    Big Pharma puts millions upon millions on drugs and then convince the people that the mentally ill should not have guns, the sheep agree, not realizing they just targeted themselves..

    You know I don’t usually get into conspiracy theories, but some connections are just too convenient.

    First, you build a medical/pharmaceutical industry that successfully pushes the notion that every little sorrow, nervous twitch, or bit of restlessness is a “disease” that needs to be treated with psychoactive drugs. Then you go on a holy crusade to take guns away from the “mentally ill” (and all the bobbleheads who haven’t thought about the implications repeat “good idea, good idea, good idea”).

    So with the consent of the ignorant, complacent, well-programmed, and the devious slimeballs who take advantage of all of the above, any one of the millions who’ve been propagandized into taking one of those psychoactive drugs can become a candidate for losing his or her gun rights. No due process, no nothin’. (Added: Well, maybe the opinion of an authoritarian, anti-gun counselor or shrink.)

    It’s just too-too perfect. Politically elegant.

    The people who are so eager to grab the guns (you will not be surprised) don’t much care whose guns they take in the process. Because after all, the point isn’t preserving rights, it’s taking rights from one and all. Grab the guns from the “wrong” guy? But there are no wrong guys when it comes to taking away firearms!

    Oh yeah, and it helps if you also set up “medical privacy” systems that centralize your health-care data and share it willy-nilly with “authorities.”

    —–

    Now as this trend takes hold, how many gun owners who might actually benefit by some of those drugs will avoid getting help because they fear the cop-knock on the door? We know that some murders have been committed because drugs exacerbated the problems they were supposed to help. How many other acts of violence may be committed because somebody who might have been helped by drugs goes over the edge?

    And how many gun owners who would never dream that their depression, anxiety, or ADHD constitutes a “mental illness” will remain blissfully ignorant until
    Authoritah comes for them?

    And how many of those gun owners will have, in fact, supported the laws to “take guns out of the hands of the mentally ill”? But wait! Not me! You were only supposed to take some dangerous wacko’s guns! Sorry, guy. You’re the dangerous wacko now, dontcha know?
    Claire Wolfe

  3. Robert nelson on said:

    More paranoia from the right and so it goes for another round of give me all your give me all your power and play along cause you are naughty. Or, nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. M. Twain

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