Will Medical Marijuana Users in Ohio Be Allowed to Own Firearms? Federal Law Still Says No

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[image-1]We've noticed some debate in Hawaii and elsewhere over whether medical marijuana users may be allowed to own firearms. In short, the answer is unclear — and Ohio, with its budding medical marijuana law, is no different.

On the federal level, marijuana remains an illegal Schedule-I narcotic, of course, and federal law prohibits any "unlawful user" or addict of any controlled substance from possessing or selling firearms or ammunition. (This law was initially passed as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968.) But state laws are changing rapidly, and it's become a very gray area for those interested in civil liberties.

A 2011 memo from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (see below) clarified the federal stance. A Nevada woman pushed back on the policy and took her arguments to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2016 that the federal stance does not violate the Second Amendment. The ban on gun ownership for marijuana users remains intact.

We've reached out for a statement from Buckeye Firearms Association, whose spokesman told the Dayton Daily News that "there is definitely a conflict between the state laws and the federal laws. We are confused as everyone else at this point.”

Ohio lawmakers expect the medical marijuana program to be fully operational by September 2018. Estimates hover around 24 percent of the state's adult population will be eligible for a medical marijuana card.

For now, most jurisdictions in other states seem to be quietly deferring to federal law on this matter. Enforcement, however, seems equally quiet.

Looking back to the ongoing debate in Honolulu, Hawaii, as an example: “This is a new area of concern for cities across the country, and we in Honolulu want to develop a policy that’s legally sound and serves our community,” Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said in a news release. “Formulating the policy will take time, but we want to do it right.”

Read the 2011 ATF policy letter here:

ATF Open Letter on Medical Marijuana by sandyatscene on Scribd

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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