Paper calls for feds to "mellow out" over guns and pot

Paper calls for feds to "mellow out" over guns and pot
(Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Back on April 20th Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic candidate for governor Nikki Fried sued the Biden administration over the current federal regulations that bar users of cannabis from being able to lawfully purchase or possess a firearm. As I said at the time, I’m all in favor of the lawsuit, though I think it’s mostly a political stunt from a Democratic candidate looking for some headlines than anything else.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times sound off in favor of the lawsuit, as well as issuing a call for the federal government to mellow out on the issue.

Earlier this month, Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried filed suit against the federal government, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Attorney General Merrick Garland, for diminishing medical marijuana users’ Second Amendment protections. Gun buyers often have to pass a federal background check, which includes questions about marijuana use. Buyers face criminal penalties for answering dishonestly. ATF guidance warns licensed gun dealers against selling to someone who uses or is “addicted to marijuana.” Medical marijuana users by definition use marijuana, a fact that can make it harder for them to pass the background check and legally buy a gun. Fried, a first-term Democrat who is running for governor, described the cannabis prohibition as “misguided and dangerous.” To that we would add antiquated and unnecessary.

The situation for medical marijuana users is actually worse than the Tampa Bay Times indicates. It’s not just about not being able to purchase firearms at retail. If you admit to using marijuana, even with a medical card in a state where it’s legal, while owning a gun you can face federal charges that could land you in prison and result in the lifetime loss of your Second Amendment rights.

Gun rights might not be the most obvious reason to update federal marijuana laws, but credit to Fried for keeping the issue in the limelight. Americans overwhelmingly support decriminalizing marijuana, especially for medical use, polls show. Regular citizens seem to understand the benefits while too many federal officials, including a swath of U.S. senators, can’t shed their personal biases. They should stop standing in the way of progress. To use the vernacular, they need to mellow out.

The Times editorial board sounds hopeful that Fried’s lawsuit could lead to Congress making the necessary changes, but I’m far less optimistic about that happening. I’m also not convinced that this lawsuit will still be valid once Fried is no longer the Agriculture Commissioner. I haven’t heard any of the candidates vying to replace Fried weigh in on her lawsuit, and whoever wins election in November could easily decide to just drop the case rather than continue to litigate.

That’s one of the big reasons why I believe Fried’s lawsuit is more of a political stunt than anything else. She’s had four years to file suit, but she waited until she was a candidate for higher office before she decided to do so. If this were really a critically important issue to Fried, she should be able to explain why it took her so long to do something about it. For now though, she seems much more interested in what this lawsuit could do for her campaign than what it might actually do for medical marijuana patients who don’t want to give up their right to keep and bear arms.