Federal legislation to protect Second Amendment rights of legal cannabis users
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Federal legislation to protect Second Amendment rights of legal cannabis users

The GRAM Act would ensure that individuals are not forced to choose between exercising their constitutional rights to own a gun and legally using cannabis.

To protect the rights of people who use marijuana in states where it’s legal, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) has reintroduced the federal Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act. The bill attempts to safeguard the Second Amendment rights of cannabis consumers currently prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms under federal law. By overriding existing regulations, the GRAM Act would ensure that individuals are not forced to choose between exercising their constitutional rights to own a gun and legally using cannabis.  

The Gun Rights and Marijuana Act, previously championed by the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK), proposes changing federal law to reclassify marijuana consumers in states where it has been legalized as lawful users of controlled substances. Currently, admitting to consuming marijuana categorizes individuals as “unlawful users,” regardless of state law, leading to these people being prohibited by the federal Justice Department from purchasing or possessing firearms.

The GRAM Act aims to align federal law with the reality of state marijuana legalization, ensuring that law-abiding cannabis consumers are not unjustly treated as second-class citizens. 

The Justice Department has repeatedly defended the constitutionality of its current regulations in federal courts. In Feb. 2023, a federal judge ruled the federal government’s ban on firearm possession for marijuana users is unconstitutional. The judge, from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, ruled that there was no historical parallel that justified a ban on gun possession by marijuana users, and a historical parallel is required according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

The Justice Department argued that marijuana use makes a person dangerous, which justifies the existing ban. But the Trump-appointed judge ruled that “mere use of marijuana does not does not indicate that someone is in fact dangerous, let alone analogous to a ‘dangerous lunatic.'” While the Department of Justice is appealing this decision, the GRAM Act aims to provide a legislative solution to this constitutional predicament. 

Rep. Mast frames the GRAM Act as an issue of fairness and equality under the law. According to a statement on his website: 

Under current law, there’s a prohibition on the sale of guns or ammunition to users of federally controlled substances, including marijuana, regardless of whether or not the state you live in has legalized medical or recreational use. That’s not fair; it turns legal cannabis users into second-class citizens by depriving them of a Constitutional right. 

Moreover, I’ve heard from countless fellow veterans whose lives have been dramatically improved by cannabis. It’s been an incredible tool when it comes to treating things like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many don’t want to have to choose between a viable treatment for their health and the ability to protect themselves and their families. 

There are court-documented examples of individuals who have had to make this choice. In another federal case initiated by former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, she was joined by two co-plaintiffs who registered as medical marijuana patients and were therefore barred from purchasing a firearm and a third co-plaintiff with a qualifying medical condition for which marijuana could be helpful but who does not want to abandon the guns he owns. 

In other words, Americans have fallen on both sides of the choice forced upon them by existing regulations from the Justice Department. Gun owners are rightly permitted to consume other intoxicating substances ranging from prescription opioids to substances like alcohol without being deprived of their Second Amendment rights. Additionally, the available research and evidence indicate that medical marijuana legalization is associated with a slight reduction in violent crime rates, further undermining the Justice Department’s claim that its ban is justifiable to safeguard the public from violence. 

If federal courts do not overturn the Justice Department’s unconstitutional ban, federal legislation like the GRAM Act might be necessary to restore the constitutional rights of law-abiding marijuana users.