Fact Check: Marijuana or guns, you can't have both!

Nikki Rudd
Updated: April 15, 2021 06:29 AM
Created: April 15, 2021 05:49 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)—Marijuana or guns, you can't have both!

Now that marijuana is legal in New York, maybe you've seen this claim on social media. 

Is it true? News10NBC's Nikki Rudd did a fact check.

You might be surprised to learn it is true. Under federal law, you cannot use marijuana and buy or possess a firearm even if state law allows recreational weed. 

"You could potentially be charged by the federal government for being in possession or owning a firearm while being a marijuana user," Tony Kuhn said. 

He's a Partner with Tully Rinckey PLLC and is an attorney who knows a lot about gun laws. 

Kuhn says if you go to buy a gun you'll find a question on the ATF form. It's part of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 
            
Here's the portion of the form we're talking about: 

"Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

"If they answer 'yes' to that question they'll be denied the right to own or purchase the firearm," said Kuhn "Any marijuana user as far as the federal government is concerned should not own or possess a firearm at any time." 
 
So all you have to do is admit you use marijuana and you'll get rejected. You don't have to be charged with a crime and even a doctor's note won't help you. 

This all goes back to the Gun Control Act of 1968.  It's the piece of legislation that put the gun control debate on the map. It prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons including marijuana users. 

So what about current gun owners who decide to smoke marijuana now that it's legal in New York? Kuhn says you could still be charged by the feds, but it would be harder for them to prove. If you do get caught, Kuhn says you could face a felony that carries a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison. 

News10NBC reached out to local state Senator Samra Brouk who co-sponsored the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). 

Brouk said, "The MRTA does nothing to affect gun rights or firearm possession and licensing in New York State. Since cannabis is still a prohibited controlled substance at the federal level, there are federal laws establishing that people who possess cannabis are ineligible to possess firearms, but at the state level, possession of legal cannabis will not interfere with gun rights."

News10NBC also contacted Congressman Joe Morelle's office to see if there could be any changes on the federal level. We haven't heard back yet. 

Congressman Alex Mooney of  West Virginia actually introduced a bill a few years ago that would amend federal law to allow state-legal medical marijuana patients to own guns. The bill didn't go anywhere. 

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