Federal Law Banning Marijuana Users From Having Firearms Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules
Federal Law Banning Marijuana Users From Having Firearms Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

By Matthew Vadum

A federal law barring marijuana users from possessing guns violates the Constitution, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled.

The decision cites last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that affirmed an individual right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.

The ruling came as challenges to gun laws across the nation have escalated since the Supreme Court struck down a restrictive New York firearms law in June 2022. The high court held that there is a constitutional right to carry a gun outside the home, leading states such as New York, New Jersey, California, and Illinois to respond by doubling down on firearms restrictions.

In that precedent, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court held that gun restrictions must be deeply rooted in American history if they are to survive constitutional scrutiny.

On Feb. 3, Oklahoma City-based U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, threw out an indictment against Jared Michael Harrison, who was charged with violating the ban.

Harrison was pulled over for a traffic stop on May 20, 2022. Police officers searched the car and found marijuana and a loaded revolver. Officers did not conduct a field sobriety test nor did they seek to draw Harrison’s blood for drug testing. On Aug. 17, 2022, a federal grand jury indicted him for possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of marijuana.

As of October 2022, 19 states allowed the recreational use of marijuana while 37 states permitted its medical use, but it remains illegal at the federal level. Oklahoma currently allows medical, but not recreational, use of marijuana.

On March 7, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 820, which would, if passed, legalize recreational use for those 21 and older, permit adults to possess as much as one ounce of marijuana, grow marijuana plants, and enact a tax on marijuana sales, according to Ballotpedia.

Federal law states that it is “unlawful for any person … who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance … to possess … any firearm or ammunition.”

The government may protect the public from various dangers but it cannot argue that Harrison’s “mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm,” Wyrick wrote in his 54-page opinion that cited a litany of legal authorities.

The ban runs afoul of the Second Amendment because the “mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports.”

“The use of marijuana—which can be bought legally (under state law) at more than 2,000 ordinary store fronts in Oklahoma—is not in and of itself a violent, forceful, or threatening act. It is not a ‘crime of violence.’ Nor does it involve ‘the actual use or threatened use of force,’” the judge wrote.

Even though Congress may have passed the law “with some vague relation to public safety or ‘the public interest’ [this] does not change this conclusion. It is not appropriate for a court to ‘reflexively defer to [a legislative] label when a fundamental right is at stake,’” he wrote.

“And the use of marijuana does not become a violent, forceful, or threatening act merely because a legislature says that it is.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Harrison’s attorney, Laura K. Deskin of the Office of the Federal Defender in Oklahoma City, for comment, but had not received a reply as of press time.

But Deskin told Reuters that marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the country that is unlawful at the federal level.

The ruling is a “step in the right direction for a large number of Americans who deserve the right to bear arms and protect their homes just like any other American,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice could appeal the ruling.

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