Federal Judge Rules Firearm Ban for Cannabis Users Unconstitutional

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Second Amendment disallows disarming citizens simply because they use cannabis, according to a federal judge in Oklahoma.

In a 54-page decision rendered February 3, Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Patrick R. Wyrick ruled stripping an individual of their right to possess a firearm based solely on cannabis use is not consistent with the country’s historical tradition of firearms regulation.


“…[T]he mere use of marijuana does not indicate that someone is in fact dangerous, let alone analogous to a ‘dangerous lunatic’” Wyrick wrote. “There are likely nearly 400,000 Oklahomans who use marijuana under state-law authorization. Lumping all those persons into a category with ‘dangerous lunatics,’ as the United States’ theory [for charging the defendant with firearms crimes] requires, is a bridge too far.”

Police in Lawton, Oklahoma, stopped the defendant, Jared Michael Harrison, for running a red light. During a search of Harrison’s vehicle, officers found a loaded revolver and cannabis. He was arrested at the scene and eventually charged by the State of Oklahoma with possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, and failure to obey a traffic signal. Harrison did not face a charge related to the gun at the time of his arrest.

Oklahoma has a thriving medical marijuana program, but recreational cannabis remains illegal. Conviction for possessing any amount of cannabis or paraphernalia without a medical marijuana patient license is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to one year of incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000.

While awaiting trial on the misdemeanor charges, a federal grand jury returned a felony indictment charging Harrison with “possessing a firearm with knowledge that he was an unlawful user of marijuana, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).”

While the Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms, prosecutors argued that marijuana users are lawbreakers, and lawbreakers aren’t part of “the people” whose rights are protected by the Constitution.

In his decision, Wyrick cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, calling the prosecutor’s argument “precisely the sort of carving out of a subset of “all Americans” the Heller Court rejected” in a 5-4 2008 ruling.

“The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms,’” Wyrick wrote. “Because the ‘central component’ of this right is individual self-defense, the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, a conclusion the Supreme Court reached after examining the text and history of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller. And so here we are, with the federal government now arguing that Harrison’s mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm.”

Wyrick’s decision was influenced by the recent SCOTUS ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen, which established a new standard for interpreting the Second Amendment. In the 6-3 Bruen decision, the court determined New York’s law requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon in public was unconstitutional. The Bruen decision impacts similar laws in seven other states, affecting more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

One day after the Harrison ruling, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled the government cannot stop an individual with a domestic violence restraining order from owning a gun, referencing the Bruen decision in its ruling. In September, a federal judge in Texas ruled laws banning individuals under felony indictment from buying guns are unconstitutional, also echoing the Bruen case as part of the nation’s “historical tradition.”

According to Reuters, the Justice Department has not responded to requests for comment but is likely to appeal the United States Of America, v. Jared Michael Harrison decision.