Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana and Guns: Just the FAQs
Are Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients allow to own guns? Oddly, the answer to that question depends on which law enforcement agency is involved. In this post, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions related to Pennsylvania medical marijuana and gun ownership.
When it comes to marijuana, state and federal laws don’t always jive. More than a third of U.S. states have legalized marijuana regardless of the fact that the plant is federally illegal. Unfortunately for gun owners, that disparity also exists when it comes to gun-related laws.
Here in Pennsylvania, there are more than a quarter-million medical marijuana patients. Pennsylvania medical marijuana cardholders who own guns are not at risk of breaking any Pennsylvania state laws. However, as far as the federal government is concerned, their Second Amendment rights are forfeited. Here’s the low down….
Does Pennsylvania prohibit medical marijuana patients from owning a gun?
The simple answer is, NO. Pennsylvania medical marijuana laws make no mention of the issue of firearm possession.
According to Title 18, section 6105 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code which spells out who can and who cannot own a gun, possession of marijuana is not grounds for denying a resident the rights of gun ownership — that is unless the individual has a prior disqualifying conviction.
Can Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients buy a gun?
Although the state of Pennsylvania does not forbid medical marijuana patients from purchasing guns, the final say in the matter is not up to the state. It’s up to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Under United States Code Title 18, section 922(g)(3) any individual who is an unlawful user of a controlled substance is forbidden from possessing a gun. Moreover, under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. And neither the DEA (which enforces drug laws) nor ATF (which enforces gun laws) gives exceptions to medical marijuana patients.
In order to buy a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, the prospective buyer must fill out ATF Form 4473. The form was modified in 2016 to include the following question:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other 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.” (question 11(e)).
Furthermore, in a memorandum written in September 2011, the ATFE writes:
“Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”
If a medical marijuana patient admits to using marijuana on this form, they will be denied the purchase of a gun. And if they lie, they’re committing a federal felony.
Even if a gun dealer does not require the buyer to fill out an ATF Form 4473 in order to sell them a gun, the patient would nonetheless be breaking federal law. The mere possession of a medical marijuana card makes the patient with a PA Qualifying Condition an “unlawful user of or addicted to” a controlled substance, pursuant to 27 C.F.R. § 478.11.
What is the penalty for owning a gun and being a medical marijuana user?
A violation of section 922(g)(3) — which includes owning a gun while being a marijuana user — is a felony. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
That being said, there are no examples of medical cannabis patients being prosecuted under §922(g)(3). The Department of Justice is unlikely to spend resources on prosecuting medical marijuana patients unless they are involved in a more significant violation of federal law.
Can federal agents access the Pennsylvania medical marijuana Patient Registry?
No. Unless a patient is found with the card in their possession, then federal agents will have no way of knowing they are a medical marijuana patient. Under 35 Pa.C.S.A. 10231.302(a), Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis patient registry is confidential. So if a patient plans on carrying a gun, they should plan on not carrying their medical marijuana card or dispensary menu products along with it.
Can Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients apply for a Concealed Carry Permit(CWP)?
Here in Pennsylvania, concealed carry permit applications are processed by the Sheriff of the county in which the individual resides. Pennsylvania state law 18 Pa.C.S.A. §6109 clearly states that illegal users of marijuana are prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit.
But what about legal users of marijuana? Section 6109(xiv) states that one cannot obtain a CWP if they are “(a)n individual who is prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm under the statutes of the United States.” And, unfortunately, that would include Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients.
That being said, patients are not required to declare their use of marijuana on the permit application. As long as there is no record of disqualifying convictions, the applicant will generally not be denied a concealed carry permit. However, bearing a concealed weapons permit does not make the possession of a gun by a medical marijuana patient any less illegal in the eyes of the federal government.