Ban on Gun Sales to Medical Marijuana Card Holders Upheld by Court

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A medical marijuana card holder can be denied gun purchases, according to a 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (3-0) on Sep. 1, 2016.

S. Rowan Wilson was not allowed to purchase a gun on the basis of a federal ban on the sale of guns to users of controlled substances (18 U.S.C. § 922 of the 1968 Gun Control Act). While medical marijuana is legal in Nevada, where Wilson lives, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and illegal under federal law. Wilson states that she obtained a medical marijuana card in solidarity with those who need to use the drug, but denies using the drug herself. Because Wilson is a medical marijuana card holder, regardless of whether she uses the substance, she was not allowed to purchase the gun.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) released a letter to firearms dealers on Sep. 21, 2011, which states, “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana 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.” Fred Hauser, the gun dealer from whom Wilson was trying to buy a gun, knew Wilson and knew she was a medical marijuana card holder. Because of Hauser’s perceived obligation to federal law, he denied her purchase.

As a result, Wilson filed the lawsuit on Oct. 18, 2011 against Eric Holder (then US Attorney General), BATFE, and the acting director and assistant director of BATFE, stating that the policy violates her Second Amendment rights. On Dec. 17, 2012, Wilson filed a First Amendment Complaint (FAC), stating that the ban was a violation of her Second Amendment rights, the Equal Protection Clause and procedural Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the First Amendment.

The federal government filed a motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 31, 2013.

On Mar. 18, 2014, US District Court Judge Gloria Navarro dismissed the lawsuit and quoted US v. Dugan, which upheld the constitutionality of § 922 in 2011: “[h]abitual drug users, like career criminals and the mentally ill, more likely will have difficulty exercising self-control, particularly when they are under the influence of controlled substances.”

Wilson appealed the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 21, 2016. The Court ruled on Sep. 1, 2016 that the BATFE’s rules are constitutional. The ruling applies to nine western states, eight of which have legal medical marijuana (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington).

Chaz Rainey, the lawyer who represented Wilson and plans to appeal the 9th Circuit ruling, stated: “We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no-fly list your constitutional right is still protected.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 25 states. See what the 2016 presidential candidates think about medical marijuana and gun control.


Michael Addady, “Court Rules That Medical Marijuana Card Holders Can’t Buy Firearms,”, Sep. 1, 2016

Brian Doherty, “Challenge to Barring Medical Marijuana Licensees from Buying Guns Loses in Federal Court [Updated],”, Mar. 18, 2014

Brian Doherty, “Get a Medical Marijuana Card, Lose Your Second Amendment Rights,”, Dec. 16, 2011

FindLaw, “18 U.S.C. § 922 : US Code – Section 922: Unlawful Acts,” (accessed Sep. 6, 2016)

Justia, “Wilson v. Holder et al,” (accessed Sep. 6, 2016)

Jacob Sullum, “9th Circuit Says Medical Marijuana Cardholders Have No Second Amendment Rights,”, Sep. 1, 2016

United States v. Kevin V. Dugan,, Sep. 20, 2011

Wilson v. Lynch,, Aug. 31, 2016