President Joe Biden, who recently issued a mass pardon for low-level marijuana offenders, says cannabis consumption should not be treated as a crime. His administration nevertheless defends the federal ban on gun possession by marijuana users, arguing that Second Amendment rights are limited to “law-abiding citizens.”
Last week, a federal judge agreed, dismissing a challenge to that rule by medical marijuana patients in Florida. The reasoning underlying that decision shows that the constitutional right to armed self-defense, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld, is still subject to legislators’ arbitrary whims and irrational prejudices.
Florida is one of 37 states that allow medical use of marijuana, most of which also have legalized recreational use—a policy supported by two-thirds of Americans. Under federal law, by contrast, marijuana remains illegal for all purposes except government-approved research, and simple possession is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or more and up to a year in jail.
For marijuana users who own guns, the potential penalties are much more severe. They include up to 15 years in prison for illegal firearm possession, up to 15 years for “trafficking in firearms” by obtaining a gun, and up to 10 years for failing to report cannabis consumption on the form required for gun purchases from federally licensed dealers.
The plaintiffs in the Florida lawsuit included Nikki Fried, a Democrat who runs the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; two patients who participate in Florida’s medical marijuana program; and a gun owner who says he would like to do so but does not want to surrender his right to arms. They argued that the ban on gun possession by cannabis consumers violates the Second Amendment.