It’s not illegal under state law in Michigan to smoke pot. In fact, recreational marijuana has been legal in the state since 2018. Under federal law, however, toking up is still a crime, and the Biden administration is now charging a 19-year old Detroit rapper who goes by the name Lil Mello with being a “marijuana user in possession of a firearm” after he was busted with a gun outside a Detroit home earlier this week.
According to the Detroit News, Lil Mello’s potential time in the Big House stems from a raid on a home in Detroit on Tuesday. While Detroit police were entering the home, one officer spotted the 19-year old, whose real name is Romello Johnson, stepping out of a car. The officer peered inside the vehicle and allegedly spotted a magazine and the butt of a pistol sticking out of a brown paper bag.
Officers were familiar with Johnson from previous contacts and knew he was 19 and ineligible to obtain a concealed pistol license, according to a court filing. He was arrested and investigators recovered a Glock pistol from the car painted with a distinctive American flag design.
Another flourish linked Johnson with the firearm.
Johnson has a distinctive tattoo under his left eye. On Wednesday, investigators started watching YouTube rap videos starring Johnson, whose tattoo is visible along with what appeared to be a Glock pistol tucked in his waistband.
In one video titled “Lil Mello — Baxk to Pressin” that has almost 83,000 views, Johnson is seen rapping in various locations, including along Fairport Street.
ATF agents interviewed Johnson on Wednesday. He admitted smoking marijuana every day since he was 14 and that he brandished the Glock pistol in music videos in Detroit, according to a court filing.
“Johnson stated he has free and ready access to the subject firearm anytime he wants to possess it,” the ATF agent wrote. “Johnson denied owning the firearm.”
Johnson is separately facing charges in Las Vegas stemming from the armed robbery of a marijuana dealer. Johnson is accused of stealing a firearm from the reported victim.
As someone who would like to see the federal prohibition on cannabis rescinded, and as someone who’s written quite a bit about the conflict between state and federal drug and gun laws, I have to admit that Lil Mello here isn’t exactly helping me build my case as to why the law should be changed.
Then again, given the charges that young Mr. Johnson is facing in Nevada, one could argue that his issues are a little bigger than simply sparking up while also having access to a gun. Still, you don’t have to be accused of armed robbery to face stiff federal penalties for possessing a firearm while being an “unlawful drug user”. All it really takes is admitting to smoking pot (even in a state where its use is legal) after you’ve been caught with a gun (even one that’s legally owned).
Earlier this year Rep. Don Young of Alaska introduced the GRAM Act, which stands for Gun Rights and Marijuana. Under the terms of his legislation:
“The term ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance’ shall not include a person by reason of unlawful use of or addiction to marihuana (as defined in section 102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act) if—
“(A) the person resides in a State, or on lands under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe (as defined in section 4 of the Indian-Self Determination and Education Assistance Act), the laws of which permit the use of marihuana by an adult; and
It’s a pretty simple fix, but at the moment it’s languishing in the House with just two other co-sponsors. Most Democrats don’t want to do anything seen as pro-Second Amendment, and most Republicans don’t want to do anything seen as pro-drug, so I don’t expect the GRAM Act to go anywhere. That’s not only bad news for guys like Romello Johnson, but for folks like Minnesota State Rep. Rod Hamilton as well.
He has multiple sclerosis, and both his physician and neurologist have told him that cannabis may help treat his symptoms. But once he enrolled in the program, he was told he could not renew his gun permit because federal law prohibits it.
“In the eyes of the federal government, we’re all felons, and it’s just tragic,” Hamilton told the Star Tribune.
Tragically stupid, but it’s still the law of the land, as Romello Johnson is finding out.