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Marijuana and Firearms

The combination of marijuana and firearms is a hotly debated issue. The State of Oregon and the Federal Government view the possession of firearms and the use of marijuana far differently. In Oregon, where marijuana has been decriminalized for both medicinal and recreational purposes a law-abiding citizen needs to understand what rights and consequences they could potentially have.

Under federal law, it is unlawful for anyone, “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” to possess a firearm. 18 USC 922 (g)(3). Under the federal government’s view marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. As such, the federal government bans the combination of marijuana and firearms. Federal law defines “addict” as, “any individual who habitually uses any narcotic drug so as to endanger the public morals, health, safety, or welfare, or who is so far addicted to the use of narcotic drugs as to have lost the power of self-control with reference to his addiction.” 21 USC 802 (1). It is not necessary under Federal law for someone to be under the influence of the controlled substance, simply that they use the controlled substance. Not only is it unlawful for an individual to possess a firearm, it is also unlawful for anyone else to knowingly transfer a firearm to, “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” 18 USC 922 (d)(3). Put plainly, if you have reason to believe a friend or family member is a user of marijuana, you cannot transfer a firearm to them. For federal purposes, marijuana and firearms do not mix. It is criminal and can expose someone to substantial prison time to possess a firearm and use marijuana, or knowingly provide a firearm to someone who possesses or uses marijuana.

To further support the federal government’s concern about marijuana and firearms, the ATF recently updated their form to purchase a firearm. The ATF’s Form 4473 now states:

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.

Under Oregon law, both recreational and medicinal marijuana are lawful. Oregon law does not prohibit firearm possession or transfers to individuals that use marijuana. Individuals that use marijuana can even obtain a Concealed Handgun License under Oregon law. See Willis v. Winters, 350 Or 299 (2011).

Simply because Oregon allows such conduct does not provide a defense if law enforcement, either state or federal, wanted to enforce the federal law. State and Local law enforcement officials have the power and authority to enforce federal law. See Willis v. Winters, 350 Or 299 (2011). Currently enforcement of marijuana and firearm laws appears not to be a priority in Oregon, but as with anything, this could change with no notice.

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