A federal judge in Oklahoma City ruled last week that a federal law that prohibits cannabis users from owning firearms is unconstitutional and must not be enforced by prosecutors. Citing a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year that dramatically expanded gun rights, U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick dismissed a federal indictment charging an Oklahoma man with violating the ban, ruling that the prohibition denied the defendant of his right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Under current federal law, people who use cannabis are prohibited from owning or purchasing firearms because they are “an unlawful user of or addicted to” a controlled substance. The ban applies to all cannabis users, including those who use marijuana products that are legal under state law and the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms for all Americans.
In May 2022, Jared Michael Harrison was arrested by police in Lawton, Oklahoma after officers found marijuana and a loaded revolver in his car during a traffic stop. Harrison told police he was on his way to work at a legal medical marijuana business, although he did not have a state-issued identification card authorizing him to use cannabis medicinally. Federal prosecutors subsequently charged Harrison under the nationwide ban on gun ownership by marijuana users.
Harrison’s attorneys challenged the gun prohibition for cannabis users, arguing that the ban is not consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of regulating firearms. The challenge cited a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that set new standards for interpreting the Second Amendment. Under that ruling, gun restrictions enacted by the government must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Judge Cites Recent Supreme Court Ruling
Wyrick, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, agreed with Harrison’s attorneys and ruled on Friday that the ban is unconstitutional, writing that “the mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports.” The judge rejected the argument of federal prosecutors that Harrison’s status as a marijuana user “justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm” and ruled that the federal ban on gun ownership “is not a constitutionally permissible means of disarming Harrison.”
Wyrick also noted that the use of cannabis is “not in and of itself a violent, forceful, or threatening act” and that Oklahoma is one of many states that permit the medicinal use of marijuana, despite the continued illegality of cannabis at the federal. Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the state has more than 2,000 licensed dispensaries where patients can obtain medical cannabis.
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.”
Brian Vicente, a founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, said last week’s court decision in Oklahoma “is a significant expansion in the rights of cannabis consumers.”
“For decades, and across various states, medical cannabis patients have been asked to choose between participating in their state’s legal cannabis program or owning a firearm,” Vicente wrote in an email. “This federal court decision secures the rights of adults to both use cannabis and own guns and effectively removes the restriction, and associated stigma, that these adults face. This is part of a broader trend of conservative states embracing marijuana policy, with both Alabama and Mississippi establishing medical cannabis programs in 2022 and Oklahoma poised to legalize cannabis on March 7 of this year.”