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As of January 1st, sales and possession of cannabis for recreational use is legal in the state of Illinois, but gun owners could still find themselves on the wrong side of the law if they choose to indulge in an edible or smoke up in celebration.
While a number of states have legalized cannabis consumption for medical or recreational purposes, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and the ATF’s Form 4473, which every prospective gun buyer must fill out before buying a gun at retail, specifically asks about marijuana use.
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any 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.
Where does that leave gun owners in Illinois? Many in the state say they’re unsure how the state will respond or enforce any prohibitions against gun ownership and using cannabis. WGEM-TV spoke to several folksin the firearms industry who are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We don’t have a lot of information either from the state or the federal government as far as this is concerned”, said Phil Alexander.
Alexander said when teaching his classes at Great River Fire Arm Training in Quincy, he doesn’t know what to tell his students when they ask about recreation marijuana and buying guns.
“There’s too many conflicts between the state and the federal government to be able to really give a definitive answer, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a court of law I really can’t give legal advice, that’s gotta come from those people,” said Alexander.
Those concerns extend to the local State’s Attorney’s office as well, where officials say they’re still waiting for more direction from the federal level
“On January first is a legal substance, there is no basis for an individual to not receive a FOID card because they legally use cannabis,” said Lead Trial Attorney at Adams County State’s Attorney office Josh Jones.
Jones said while firearm sales between individuals and purchases of ammo likely won’t be affected as they don’t go through the federal background check process. the same can’t be said for all gun purchases.
“Now once you have that FOID card to purchase firearms, is certainly a question that’s up in the air and deals with areas of federal law that our office doesn’t deal with,” said Jones.
According to WGEM, the Illinois State Police say they won’t be revoking FOID cards simply because someone is smoking pot, but “those who are addicted or a habitual user of narcotics will still not be permitted to use firearms.”
I’ve written before about the conflict between state and federal drug laws, and how gun owners are getting caught in this gray area where engaging in something that’s legal at the state level may still cause them to lose their Second Amendment rights. That’s why Illinois firearms instructor Phil Alexander has this advice for his students and other gun owners:
“My personal advice would be, if you’re just going to try recreational marijuana just because you want to try it, don’t, until there’s been a court case that actually sets the law.”
Cancer patients, those struggling with PTSD, and others who use cannabis for medical reasons have already been told in a number of states that they must choose between their health and their safety, but until the law regarding cannabis changes at the federal level, or the ATF revises form 4473 to acknowledge the fact that most states have legalized medical marijuana and 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, the conflict will continue.