MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS CHALLENGE GUN BAN AT U.S. COURT

CCJ Gabriel
MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS CHALLENGE GUN BAN AT U.S. COURT

A U.S. appeals court has been divided over whether medical marijuana users can be barred from owning guns. A group of Florida residents who use medical marijuana urged the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to find that the federal ban is unconstitutional as applied to them. The plaintiffs' lawyer, William Hall, cited last year's landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision expanding gun rights, arguing that the law violated their clients' right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.


Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but the drug remains illegal at the federal level. The plaintiffs noted that the U.S. Department of Justice is barred under the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment from using funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs, including to prosecute individuals. Justice Department attorney Steven Hazel argued that barring drug users from having guns was akin to historical laws dating back to the nation's founding prohibiting mentally ill people and alcoholics from possessing guns.


U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Luck appeared to agree, telling Hazel that historical laws focused on "being intoxicated at that moment" and didn't extend past the moment of intoxication. However, U.S. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch, an appointee of Republican former President Donald Trump, stressed that marijuana can cause paranoia and psychotic symptoms and remained illegal federally.


If the 11th Circuit rules against the plaintiffs, it would split with the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the law unconstitutional as applied to a marijuana user. The same law is at issue in the Delaware criminal case against President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, an admitted past user of crack cocaine who was indicted on charges including that he possessed a firearm while using unlawful drugs.

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