Understanding Florida’s Laws on Cannabis and Gun Ownership
- Can medical marijuana cardholders in Florida buy a gun?
- What about obtaining a gun permit (CWP)?
- What if a medical marijuana patient already owns a gun — are they required to give it up?
In June of 2017, lawmakers passed the Florida Compassionate Care Act officially making medical marijuana available to individuals with qualifying medical conditions. Following the program launch, thousands of Floridians signed up for the program to seek relief from a multitude of painful, debilitating, and sometimes terminal conditions. There are now more than a quarter of a million medical marijuana patients in Florida.
The Sunshine State is also home to the highest number of concealed weapons permit (CWP) holders in the U.S.A. And many Floridians holding medical marijuana cards are also gun owners.
The problem is, marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. And when it comes to drugs and guns, Federal law trumps state law.
Considering getting a Florida medical marijuana card? Floridians who own guns or plan on buying a gun really need to look into the matter before heading off to a Florida medical marijuana doctor for approval.
Are Florida medical marijuana patients allowed to own guns?
The problem for gun owners is that the use of any Schedule I controlled substance (such as marijuana), even for medical purposes negates the patient’s Second Amendment rights. For Florida’s medical marijuana patients, the “inalienable right to bear arms” goes up in smoke.
All weapons, ammunition, silencer, or SBR in an individual’s possession are automatically considered to be contraband the minute a medical marijuana card is issued.
Federal laws related to marijuana and guns
According to Federal law, all medical marijuana patients are automatically banned from the possession or use or transferring of firearms.
The mere possession of a medical marijuana card makes the purchase, gifting, sale, or transfer of guns illegal.
If an individual is in possession of a gun, they must disclose their use of marijuana, medical or otherwise. Failure to do so will be considered a federal felony.
If an individual conducting a private firearm transaction has knowledge of the recipient’s drug use and the transaction is completed, both parties may be charged with committing a federal felony.
If a card-holding medical marijuana patient is in possession of a weapon in a gun trust, their title of lifetime beneficiary or trustee will be rescinded.
If they are the trustee of another’s estate it is now illegal to sell the guns and prohibited parties must be removed from all estate planning documents to avoid inadvertent felonies.
If a member of a gun owner’s immediate family has obtained a medical marijuana card, they cannot be privy to the gun safe combination or have access to weapons.
What if a FL medical marijuana patient doesn’t give up their guns or concealed weapon permits?
Many patients are reluctant to hand over their guns, simply because they use marijuana medicinally. However, medical marijuana patients are required by federal law to automatically transfer ownership of their guns and relinquish concealed weapon permits upon receiving their medical marijuana card.
Technically, if a patient is already in possession of a guns or holding a concealed weapon permit when obtaining a Florida medical marijuana card, they are not required by the state of Florida to relinquish them.
According to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried who oversees both the state’s cannabis programs and concealed weapons permits: “I have both, so I want to make that very clear that I will not be taking anybody’s concealed weapons permit or not renewing them. I see no conflict between the two.”
A Serious Problem if the Gun is Involved in a Crime.
However, gun ownership could become a serious problem for a cardholder if the patient or the gun is involved in a crime.
If a medical marijuana patient is arrested by a federal agent while in possession of a gun and marijuana, they can be charged with federal drug and gun violations.
It’s wise to be aware of all aspects of gun ownership when considering applying for a medical marijuana license. There are some rather nuanced situations regarding this issue.
In fact, the ATF has arrested citizens for being in possession of a medical marijuana card and a firearm, even though they had no marijuana on their person at the time.
Shelby County Sheriff and member of the Florida Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee cautions: “If I had a concealed carry (weapons permit) and medical marijuana, I would be very careful. I think citizens need to know there’s a possibility of getting into harm’s way.”
ATF Form 4473 - Application For Gun Purchase
On the application for purchasing a gun, buyers are asked about their drug use. If the buyer lies on the application, they could be charged with a federal felony.
The state of Florida technically doesn’t prohibit the purchase of guns to medical marijuana patients, but the law requires transparency on firearm applications, and by law, the applicant must disclose their drug use instantly assuring their application will be denied.
Technically, the ATF has no access to Florida’s medical marijuana patient registry. A potential gun buyer could answer “no” on the form, but they would be lying under penalty of perjury.
Medical marijuana patients are advised to proceed with caution if they’re considering buying a weapon and to answer the questions honestly. The penalties tend to be harsh.
Breaking these laws can result in up to ten years in prison or up to a $250,000 fine.
Will the situation change in the future?
The gun/medical marijuana debate is a nationwide problem, not limited to Florida. Medical marijuana patients in other U.S. states such as Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Hawaii have been given public notice by their local law enforcement agencies, and are being required under penalty-by-law to dispose of or turn in their firearms.
Until the Federal and state policymakers are on the same page, these issues will continue to plague medical marijuana patients. The declassification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance is long overdue. More than two-thirds of Americans are in favor of federal cannabis policy reform.
The marijuana/gun issue has been challenged in several progressive states. However, the ATF maintains its stance and won’t budge until marijuana is declassified and no longer considered a Schedule I substance.
In 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the argument that medical marijuana patients are unlikely to commit violent gun crimes “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.”
Capitol Hill lawmakers are making some promising headway with legislation that would reschedule marijuana or have it completely de-scheduled. However, federal cannabis policy reforms have been consistently derailed by Senate Republicans.
That could change now that Democrats have wrested control of the Senate from the Republicans. However, there is no guarantee that if policymakers drop a cannabis policy reform bill on President-Elect Joe Biden’s desk he will give marijuana the green light.
The heated debate continues to smolder and advocates are optimistic for a turnaround on this controversial issue
Sources and additional reading
- Florida Lawsuit Challenges Firearm, Medical Marijuana Laws
- Pick One: Medical Marijuana or Firearms
- CMClarkLaw.com – Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws: One Toke Over the Line
- Miami New Times – Guns and Pot Sometimes Don’t Mix in Florida
- Can you own a gun and have a medical card in Ohio?
- Will Joe Biden Legalize Marijuana on a federal level?
- How To Keep Marijuana Locked Away From Children