Federal court dismisses Florida marijuana gun rights lawsuit

AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Throughout the nation, marijuana is being legalized to varying degrees. For some states, it’s really just about allowing its sale for medical purposes. For others, it’s pretty much sold like alcohol or cigarettes, where anyone of age can get it.

Whether one is better or worse is a topic for discussion somewhere else.

Here, we need to focus on the anti-gun aspect that surrounds the legalization effort. You see, while a state can legalize marijuana, it doesn’t circumvent federal regulations which bar possession of a gun while using an illegal drug. Since pot is still considered illegal at the federal level, state law is irrelevant.

Florida Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried sought to change that with a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, a federal court tossed the lawsuit.

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit from Florida’s agriculture commissioner that challenged a ban on medical marijuana patients’ rights to buy and possess firearms.

The case has extended over months, with attorneys for Commissioner Nikki Fried arguing that the federal firearms ban for cannabis patients is unconstitutional. An hearing on the the Biden administration’s motion to dismiss was held last month.

But while Fried expressed optimism following the oral arguments, citing her legal team’s “compelling” performance, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida judge ultimately disagreed, saying in a 22-page opinion that the plaintiffs “have standing but that their claims fail on the merits.”

The gist of the Judge Allen Winsor’s ruling is that he sided with the Justice Department’s arguments that people who use marijuana, regardless of state law, are engaging in criminal activity at the federal level. And, therefore, there’s precedent to deny them the right to have firearms.

The issue, though, is whether or not these laws should exist.

Following the Bruen decision, the landscape for defending those laws changed. We talked about how the federal government sought to justify those laws as well, leaning back on racist measures of a bygone era when some people weren’t even considered human.

There was no way a judge would take those claims seriously, right?

Well, it seems he did.

Despite the pushback over those alleged analogues, the court said in its final ruling that the federal government’s position had merit.

“Laws keeping guns from the mentally ill likewise flow from the historical tradition of keeping guns from those in whose hands they could be dangerous. Plaintiffs recoil at being compared to the mentally ill…but one does not have to label marijuana users mentally ill to recognize that both categories of people can be dangerous when armed,” the judge wrote.

“Although the prohibition reaches those habitually using marijuana (even if not currently under the influence), habitual drug users are analogous to other groups the government has historically found too dangerous to have guns,” he continued.

So what now?

The best option for medical marijuana users now rests with Congress. If they pass a law determining marijuana users following state laws shouldn’t be barred from owning guns, then that’s where change happens. If they do it the right way, they might even get President Joe Biden to sign it.

If that happens, no lawsuits will be necessary and those who use a substance legal in their home states won’t be barred from keeping and bearing arms.