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Tipsheet

Banning Guns for Marijuana Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File

A federal law that prohibits marijuana users from possessing guns is unconstitutional, a federal district judge in Oklahoma ruled last week. 

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick dismissed an indictment against a man, Jared Harrison, who was charged in August with violating the law. Wyrick ruled that the law itself is unconstitutional because it infringes on Americans’ Second Amendment rights: 

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Wyrick said that while the government can protect the public from dangerous people possessing guns, it could not argue Jared Harrison's "mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm."

He said using marijuana was "not in and of itself a violent, forceful, or threatening act," and noted that Oklahoma is one of a number of states where the drug, still illegal under federal law, can be legally bought for medical uses.

"The mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation's history and tradition of firearms regulation supports," Wyrick wrote.

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." She called marijuana the most commonly used drug illegal at the federal level.

Harrison had been charged after he was arrested in May 2022 following a traffic stop, ABC reported. While officer’s searched his vehicle, they found a loaded revolver and marijuana. Harrison reportedly told the police he was on his way to a medical marijuana dispensary but did not have a state-issued medical marijuana card. 

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Federal prosecutors reportedly argued that the portion of the gun law that does not allow drug users to possess firearms falls in line with “consistent with a longstanding historical tradition in America of disarming presumptively risky persons, namely, felons, the mentally ill, and the intoxicated.” The U.S. Department of Justice is likely to appeal the ruling.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law that would have required residents to provide “proper cause” to obtain a concealed carry handgun permit. In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the right to bear arms should not be subject to a different set of rules apart from the other rights detailed in the Bill of Rights. Since the ruling, other court decisions have protected Americans’ right to own guns. 

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