Nevada woman fighting federal ban on medicinal pot users owning guns
18 October 2011
A Nevada woman sued the federal government Tuesday in hopes of overturning its ban on medical marijuana users buying and possessing firearms.
Represented by Henderson attorney Charles Rainey, S. Rowan Wilson of Carson City filed suit in U.S. District Court for Nevada against Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Wilson, who works as a medical technician and plans to attend medical school, said in the suit that she tried to buy a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum pistol on Oct. 4, but the firearms dealer refused to sell her the weapon because she has a medical marijuana registry card from the state of Nevada.
Wilson said she obtained the medical marijuana card in hopes cannabis would ease her severe cramps, which she said are sometimes debilitating and cause painful side effects.
"I sought to purchase a firearm for personal protection, but discovered, in my attempt to make the purchase, that my mere possession of a medical marijuana registry card prohibits any federal firearms licensee from selling me any firearm or ammunition,’’ Wilson said in a court declaration.
"The defendants have prohibited a certain class of law-abiding, responsible citizens from exercising their right to keep and bear arms; the defendants have enacted policies, procedures and customs with the specific intent of denying the Second Amendment rights of persons who have registered to use medical marijuana pursuant to and in accordance with state law,’’ Wilson’s lawsuit charges.
The gun ban also violates Wilson's Fifth Amendment right to due process as it automatically defines people possessing medical marijuana cards as unlawful users of controlled substances, the lawsuit charges.
The government hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, but in a Sept. 21 open letter to all federal firearms licensees, the ATF reminded gun sellers that federal law prohibits any person who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance’’ from possessing, receiving, shipping or transporting firearms and ammunition.
"There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law,’’ the ATF letter said. "Therefore, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.’’
The ATF’s September letter on its ban on the sale of firearms and ammunition to medical marijuana users has already generated protests in some circles, with Montana’s attorney general saying earlier this month it raises constitutional concerns.
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