Medical Marijuana Cards and Gun Ownership in NJ
Can You Have a Gun with a Medical Marijuana Card in New Jersey?
Though marijuana for personal use is legal, the plain truth is that you cannot get a gun permit if you are addicted to, or use marijuana in New Jersey. A medical marijuana card is considered evidence of marijuana use. Even though a New Jersey resident no longer must register with the state for a medical marijuana card to access cannabis, New Jersey still maintains a Medicinal Cannabis Program with registered patients who get cannabis from authorized medical marijuana facilities or dispensaries. However, whether for medical or recreational purposes, a marijuana user in New Jersey will be denied a gun permit. Here’s how the law applies gun rights and gun ownership to medical marijuana users in New Jersey, even if you have a viable medical marijuana card and have followed all of the necessary procedures in the state. If you have been arrested and charged with unlawfully possessing a gun due to your status as a medical marijuana card holder in New Jersey, or you are wondering about your eligibility for a firearm permit, or you are seeking to appeal a gun permit that was rejected for another reason, call (201) 614-2474 for immediate assistance from a well-versed gun rights attorney.
Medical Marijuana Users and Gun Rights: An Overview
New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana at the ballot box not too long ago, but the federal government never did. Marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules of controlled substances. Schedule I to IV drugs are illegal to have without a prescription or at all. The federal law specifically forbids those using controlled dangerous substances from buying or owning guns, as dictated in the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, Title 18 § 922(g)(3)). The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Federal Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 specify that those addicted to controlled substances, such as marijuana, are prohibited from buying, possessing, or owning a gun, regardless of state law. As such, being a medical or recreational marijuana user disqualifies you from buying, having, or owning a gun or ammunition. You are part of a prohibited class by law.
Overall, when it comes to prohibiting medical marijuana users from owning guns, New Jersey follows federal law on that issue. At its most basic level, federal law trumps state law.
Can You Buy a Gun if You Have a Medical Marijuana Card in NJ?
All federal agencies consider marijuana illegal. For example, the agency governing the licensing of gun dealers, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), requires licensed firearms dealers to deny a medical marijuana cardholder a gun. In practice though, many gun purchasers get their guns from unlicensed dealers, so some circumvent the federal mandate regarding guns and medical marijuana cards. Regardless, all federally licensed gun dealers must require background checks on gun buyers and use ATF gun purchase forms. ATF form 4473 questions whether the applicant uses cannabis. If checked “yes,” the dealer cannot sell a gun to the applicant. Even if the box is checked “no,” but the dealer suspects the purchaser is lying, the ATF burdens the dealer to deny the applicant. The purchaser also commits a crime by lying on a gun permit application.
Thus, federal law restricts a medical marijuana user’s Second Amendment right to a gun. Wilson v. Lynch, 835 F. 3d 1083 – Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 2016, a 9th Circuit Appellate Court case, ruled that restricting medical marijuana cardholders from purchasing guns did not violate their Second Amendment rights. Following this case, the ATF added a statement prohibiting gun purchases for marijuana users, regardless of state law. Notably, medical marijuana users may still be able to purchase guns from private sellers in some states, but that is NOT legal in New Jersey.
Marijuana can Prevent You from Getting a Gun License in NJ
A New Jersey gun purchaser must get a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FID) to buy a firearm or a Permit to Purchase a Handgun. The state runs background checks and can find criminal convictions and disorderly persons offenses that prevent a person from purchasing a firearm. The state can also check for medical marijuana registration or other factors that disqualify a purchaser from getting a gun.
Additionally, even a marijuana possession arrest on a criminal background check typically disqualifies a person from having a gun for up to 12 months. Though certain quantities of marijuana are legal in New Jersey, such as 1 ounce of dried flower and 4 grams of concentrate or resin, possessing higher amounts, selling without a license, or growing cannabis in your home or on your property is still illegal. You may believe that the state cannot discover your marijuana use without a medical marijuana registration. Still, you risk getting caught if you purchase in the gray market, outside legal dispensaries, or get arrested for an offense involving marijuana.
There is one important aspect to consider: if the police arrested you after searching your vehicle based on smelling marijuana, this is no longer considered sufficient probable cause or valid grounds for searching the vehicle. Even if a search based on the odor of marijuana turned up a gun and the drug itself, the search itself may be deemed invalid, and thus all evidence obtained during the search may be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This means your lawyer may challenge the search and get the gun and drug evidence excluded. That may lead to a dismissal. Even without a dismissal, there are many other ways an excellent defense attorney can help you challenge your case or lessen your sentence.
Applying for a Gun Permit after Your MMJ Expires in NJ
Federal law does allow the cardholder to apply for a permit once their medical marijuana card expires. However, once you renew your card, you are in danger of violating the law again. Thus, those who own a gun and later get a medical marijuana card or use marijuana, then own that gun unlawfully. The gun license is invalid. Federal law enforcement is still problematic because it is situational and the law is unclear on the issue. The federal law does not specify how gun owners get rid of their guns if they later use marijuana medicinally. Even federal law is somewhat contradictory, as someone with a medical marijuana card may have a firearm on their property if their spouse does not have a medical marijuana card and safeguards the weapon against the marijuana user.
How Medical Marijuana Users get Arrested for Illegally Possessing Guns in NJ
There are a vast array of complexities related to medical marijuana use and gun possession, which often leads to arrests of unsuspecting individuals who violate the laws without even intending to. For instance, if you are in New Jersey with a gun that you bought in another state, you may assume that your gun and your medical marijuana card don’t pose an issue. This is not the case. In fact, bringing the firearm into New Jersey without a permit from this state can get you arrested with or without a medical marijuana card. In addition, possessing a handgun, shotgun, rifle, or another type of firearm after obtaining a medical marijuana card or renewing an expired card, turns what was previously legal possession into illegal possession of a firearm. Keep in mind, an arrest for illegally possessing a firearm, or for having a gun in your possession when committing a drug crime, subjects you to some of the toughest sentencing laws in the nation. If caught possessing a handgun illegally, a person arrested is at risk for up to ten years in prison.
If you have questions about the intersection of medical marijuana and gun laws in New Jersey, are interested in getting a gun permit, or you recently found yourself arrested, contact The Tormey Law Firm for further guidance and immediate assistance. Benefit from a free consultation by contacting (201) 614-2474) 24/7 or sending a message.