Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in California?

Can You Own a Gun with a Medical Card in California?

No. Although the California Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) does not expressly prohibit possessing or purchasing a firearm, federal law makes it illegal to purchase a firearm if you are a marijuana user or addicted to a controlled substance. Note that under federal law, marijuana remains a controlled substance and is not allowed for medical use.

Can California Medical Cannabis Patients Legally Carry Firearms Without Permits?

No, medical cannabis patients in California cannot legally carry firearms without permits. Medical marijuana patients in the state are subject to federal law, which prohibits anyone who is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled drug from possessing a firearm. Due to the federal classification of marijuana as a prohibited substance, medical marijuana patients are technically prohibited from carrying firearms under federal law.

Does California Require Background Checks for MMJ Patients Seeking Gun Licenses?

In accordance with federal law, California requires persons, including medical marijuana patients, looking to purchase firearms to undergo background checks. The state’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is mandated by state law to serve as a point of contact for background checks for individuals seeking to buy guns.

Persons with prior criminal convictions related to marijuana are not allowed to purchase firearms. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) may deny individuals the right to own firearms, even if their prior conviction for a marijuana-related offense does not fall under federal prohibitions. This denial can occur if the conviction occured less than one year or if the individual was never convicted. In these cases, the DOJ assumes that the individual is "addicted" to marijuana, as per the federal restriction.

Also, if a firearm dealer is made aware that a prospective firearm buyer possesses a medical marijuana card, the dealer may not sell to such an individual as there would be reasonable cause to believe that the person is an unlawful marijuana user under federal law.

Note that the Department of Justice (DOJ) performs comprehensive checks, which include reviewing accessible records, such as the federal NICS database, to verify whether a prospective firearm buyer may purchase or possess firearms under state and federal laws. Furthermore, in addition to verifying the federal NICS database, the DOJ is obligated to conduct a thorough examination of its internal records and, as well as certain records that the department is permitted to request from the state hospitals.

Can You Get a California Medical Marijuana Card After Getting a Gun License?

Although California cannabis laws do not specifically contain firearm possession statutes for MMJ patients, it remains illegal to own or possess a gun as a marijuana user. Regardless of whether an MMJ card or gun application comes first, you would be in violation of federal law if you own a gun and are actively using marijuana, even for medical purposes. However, when your medical marijuana expires, and you decide against renewal, you can legally obtain a gun license without repercussions. There is no federal or state law prohibiting an individual from owning a firearm if their spouse has a California medical cannabis card.

Legal History of Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in California

There are no official legal measures introduced by state lawmakers or public litigations pertaining to gun possession or ownership as it relates to medical marijuana patients in California. While state laws protect the rights of medical marijuana patients, gun ownership provisions for MMJ patients in California are generally subject to federal laws.

What Federal Law Says About the Firearm Rights of Medical Marijuana Users

Although California legalized both medical and recreational marijuana use through Proposition 64, cannabis use, even for medical marijuana patients, inadvertently poses potential risks for gun owners. The crux of this issue lies in the federal regulations concerning the use of marijuana. Under federal law, consuming marijuana, even in states like California where medical marijuana use is legal, disqualifies an individual from legally carrying firearms. This legal scenario has been in place since the enactment of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 laid the foundation for federal regulations regarding gun ownership in the United States. This Act establishes that individuals who are unlawful marijuana users are banned from purchasing or possessing firearms. Since cannabis remains a controlled substance at the federal level, individuals who use it, even for medical purposes, may be considered unlawful users under federal law.

While the Second Amendment provides Californians the right to keep and bear arms, such a right is not considered absolute. An exception to this rule is contained in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits marijuana users from carrying a firearm. In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued an open letter in 2011 to all licensed firearms dealers, establishing that individuals holding medical marijuana cards are ineligible to purchase firearms.

The ATF emphasizes that federal law considers cannabis illegal, regardless of state-level legalization for medical or recreational use. However, there was still an inconsistency in the enforcement of this rule, as the matter had not been definitively addressed by the Supreme Court. Consequently, in the case of Wilson v. Lynch, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that registered medical cannabis users are barred from legally purchasing firearms under federal law. The court's decision deemed this prohibition did not infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

After, the ATF took a significant step by modifying its 4473 form (required for all prospective gun buyers), which now inquires whether the applicant is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana. Directly below this question, a cautionary statement emphasizes that marijuana use or possession remains illegal under federal law, irrespective of state-level medicinal or recreational legalization. Individuals using medical marijuana who respond with "yes" will have their license application rejected, while those who answer "no" risk perjury charges.

The consequences of violating federal law by combining firearm possession with marijuana use are harsh. Individuals caught with firearms while using marijuana can face federal charges, resulting in potential sentences of up to 10 years in prison. Furthermore, individuals who knowingly sell firearms to marijuana users may be punished with an imprisonment term of up to 10 years.

In this section: