Illinois MMJ and Guns

Do Illinois medical marijuan laws prevent card-holding patients from owning and buying guns? In this post, we’ll compare and contrast state and federal laws related to marijuana and gun ownership. The fact of the matter is they don’t always agree.

Both recreational and medical marijuana are legal here in Illinois. And, of course, so are guns, assuming one passes muster. However, the unfortunate truth is this: If we want to be law abiding U.S. citizens we are forced to choose between the two.

Since it was first written in the U.S. Constitution via the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms has been an inalienable right for U.S. all citizens. Many Americans cherish that right. However, those rights are coming under fire as more and more U.S. citizens indulge themselves in state-sanctioned medical and recreational marijuana programs. 

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Illinois in early 2020, and medical marijuana has been legal here since 2013. However, state laws surrounding guns and marijuana are still hazy here. 

Can Illinois Medical Marijuana Patients Buy Guns?

 In order to purchase a gun in Illinois, applicants must fill out a background check form for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The form explicitly asks if the potential buyer is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana.” 

The document is also very clear that “marijuana remains illegal under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

The bottom line is that Illinois residents are prohibited from buying guns if they cop to smoking weed on the form. According to Executive Director of the The Illinois State Rifle Association Richard Pearson: “If a gun dealer would ever sell one to [a person] that marks that they are a habitual user or addicted or whatever the question might be that day, they could go to jail for that. So they are not going to do that.” 

So how will “habitual use or addiction” be legally ascertained in order to deny gun ownership? Can information from medical marijuana regulators be made available to law enforcement agencies? The fact of the matter is that state law prohibits regulators as well as dispensaries from sharing this confidential information.

Because this is the case, Illinois attorney Jeff Hall is concerned that some Illinois residents may choose to lie about their legal marijuana use on a federal form. However, this action could result in serious penalties including up to 5 years in prison. 

Illinois State Police Are Adding To The Confusion

In regard to the confusion surrounding the ongoing issue Hall says: “We need to make this clear that those using cannabis lawfully in the state of Illinois are not going to be precluded.” 

Given this fact, Hall takes issue with the Illinois State Police website for Firearms Owners Identification Card (FOID) applications. It appears on the website that although firearm possession is illegal for individuals who ingest recreational marijuana it makes  exceptions for state-issued medical card holders. This is regardless of the fact that the ATF form references a federal law negating this statement.

The confusion around this issue is further proliferated on social media. Recently the Illinois State Police posted a statement on their Facebook page regarding the marijuana/gun issue saying the agency “will not revoke Firearm’s Owner’s Identification Cards based solely on a person’s legal use of adult use cannabis.”

Conversely, another statement proclaimed, “ISP will revoke FOID cards where it is demonstrated that an individual is addicted to or is a habitual user of cannabis.” 

What If You Already Own A Gun?

Illinois residents who already own a gun might want to think twice about getting a medical marijuana card. Due to marijuana’s categorization as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, it is federally illegal to both use marijuana and own a gun. 

If a resident already owns a gun they probably don’t have to relinquish it if they merely smoke cannabis. However, if an Illinois resident is arrested while in possession of a gun and marijuana there may be serious consequences.

Pearson maintains that doing so is “a good way to get yourself in trouble if you are not very, very careful,” adding, “you might get yourself in trouble if you are careful anyway.”

However many medical marijuana patients in the state are choosing to ignore federal rules and to hold onto their guns. 

Will Laws Relating To Marijuana And Guns Change?

So is the fog around medical marijuana use and gun ownership expected to clear up any time soon? Until the Federal marijuana laws catch up with the states, the gun ownership issue will continue to plague medical marijuana patients. 

The descheduling and legalization of marijuana — essentially ending federal prohibition of marijuana — is long overdue. More than two-thirds of Americans agree and their numbers are rising. 

Although the marijuana/gun issue has been challenged in several states, the ATF will maintain its stance until marijuana is no longer considered a Schedule I substance.

In a 2016 case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the argument that medical marijuana patients are unlikely to commit violent gun crimes is “not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

However, with Democrats now in control of the federal government, it seems highly likely that marijuana will be removed from Schedule I in the coming months (or possibly years). If this is the case, the gun/marijuana issue could well become a moot point.

Congress has been making some headway with cannabis legislation that would have it completely de-scheduled. However, progress is likely to be incremental. 

Advocates are optimistic that the issue will be settled in the near future. However, for the time being, the guns and marijuana debate continues. For now, it’s probably wise for Illinois residents to refrain from carrying both an Illinois medical marijuana card and a gun at the same time.

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