Short answer: almost certainly not, but I’m still encouraged to see the GRAM Act re-introduced.
The Gun Rights and Marijuana Act was first proposed in 2021 by the late Don Young, who served as Alaska’s lone House representative for decades. The bill failed to find any traction (or more than a handful of co-sponsors) with Democrats in control of the House, but now Florida Rep. Brian Mast is hoping that with the GOP in charge the legislation will find a warmer reception.
Mast is the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and is generally supportive of Second Amendment issues, though he’s previously endorsed a ban on so-called assault weapons (while voting against the gun ban bill that narrowly passed the House last year). Now he’s picking up where Young left off with the GRAM Act; a pretty simple piece of legislation that would allow gun owners in states where marijuana has been legalized to partake without fear of losing their right to keep and bear arms. As the bill states:
“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… if— ‘‘(A) the person resides in a State, or on lands under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe… the laws of which permit the use of marihuana by an adult; and… the use of marihuana by the person in the State or on those lands, as the case may be, does not violate the laws of the State or Indian tribe, as the case may be’’
So, in states where marijuana remains illegal the federal prohibition would still apply, but gun owners lawfully possessing or using cannabis under state law would be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights without fear of prosecution.
As it stands, people who admit to being an “unlawful user” of marijuana are barred from buying, possessing or selling firearms—a federal policy that’s recently been challenged in several federal courts and deemed unconstitutional by at least two.
“No one should be forced to choose between their rights: you have a right to bear arms, and in many states, you have a right to use cannabis,” Mast said in a press release. “Congress needs to legislate based on reality, and the reality is that those who legally use marijuana are being treated as second-class citizens. That’s not acceptable. Government exists to protect the rights of the people, and that’s what this bill does.”
Federal law enforcement doesn’t actively screen gun owners for substance use, but a question on a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form asks would-be gun purchasers: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” It’s a felony to lie on the form.
And the feds do still charge people for lying on the 4473 or even for admitting to using cannabis while owning a firearm, though it remains to be seen if the DOJ or the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Hunter Biden will file charges or let the president’s son slide by without facing prosecution for purchasing a gun at a time when he’s already admitted to using cocaine.
For those gun owners who can’t rely on their parents’ position to keep them out of trouble, the current law definitely has teeth, though as the website Marijuana Moment noted, at least two federal judges have determined that the current federal law is unconstitutional. The DOJ hasn’t been able to point to any historical analogues barring gun possession for users of illegal drugs or alcohol, though there are plenty of long-standing laws that prohibit the use of firearms while intoxicated or under the influence. Still, Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Attorneys have argued that the Second Amendment’s protections for the right to keep and bear arms only applies to “law-abiding citizens,” not “the people” at large; a position that would leave even minor traffic infractions open to a lifetime prohibition on gun ownership, and certainly opens the door to prosecuting any gun owner who is caught with a minor amount of pot and a firearm… even if they’re only using cannabis medicinally.
The GRAM Act may very well turn out to be unnecessary in the long term, but there’s no guarantee how the Supreme Court will rule on the issue, or whether or not they’ll even take up one of these cases when they reach the justices. As the spouse of a Stage IV cancer patient who lives in a state where cannabis use has been legalized, I would love for my wife to be able to try to alleviate her nausea, fatigue, and lack of appetite without fear of federal prosecution, but I think the GRAM Act is going to struggle to find support on Capitol Hill. Most Republicans aren’t eager to do anything to legalize or encourage cannabis use, and most Democrats are loathe to do anything supportive of the Second Amendment. The Congressional Cannabis Caucus has a whopping four members, so if the GRAM Act is going to pass Mast and his cohorts are going to have to convince an awful lot of congresscritters to step outside their comfort zone and blaze a new trail for the federal government when it comes to cannabis and gun owners.