Despite Marijuana Legalization, Minnesota Pot Users Federally Prohibited From Owning Guns
On Tuesday, May 30, Minnesota Gov.Tim Walz signed a bill that will officially legalize recreational marijuana use throughout the state. While the bill pretty clearly states where marijuana users can and cannot use, there are questions that remain.
For example, what about Minnesota gun owners who want to use marijuana? With marijuana becoming legal at the state level, how does that impact federal gun laws? It didn't take long for the St. Paul division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to set the record straight.
The ATF sent out a news release Tuesday making it clear that the changes in Minnesota marijuana laws do not change the fact that an individual who is a current user of marijuana is still federally defined as an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance and therefore is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition.
The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition. The ATF says this remains the case, even in states where marijuana has been legalized.
“Until marijuana is legalized federally, firearms owners and possessors should be mindful that it remains federally illegal to mix marijuana with firearms and ammunition,” said ATF’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Reed, of the St. Paul Field Division. “As regulators of the firearms industry and enforcers of firearms laws, we felt it was important to remind Minnesotans of this distinction as the marijuana laws adjust here in the State of Minnesota.”
The ATF says anyone looking to purchase firearms must attest whether or not they are an unlawful user of marijuana on an ATF Form 4473 during a firearm transaction.
Craig Small, writing for the international law firm of Clark Hill, notes that if gun owners deny using marijuana on the form, they face the risk of committing felony perjury. Small recognizes that committing perjury on a gun background check is a crime that is rarely prosecuted, but it's the choice gun owners face.
He adds that anyone who is found to be in possession of a firearm while using marijuana can be charged with a federal crime, which carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison. Additionally, anyone who knowingly sells a firearm to someone who uses marijuana is also breaking the law and could face a prison sentence of up to ten years.
That being said, in February 2023, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that a federal law prohibiting people from owning firearms solely due to their marijuana use is an unconstitutional restriction of their Second Amendment rights.
Similar cases are being argued or have been decided in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere in the United States. The current discrepancy between state and federal marijuana laws makes it very confusing for citizens but, as it currently stands, the ATF in Minnesota is making their stand clear.
It would appear that with Minnesota becoming the 23rd state to legalize marijuana, and more likely to follow, it will be interesting to see the response from federal lawmakers.