Discrimination against cannabis users may not seem like something guns rights activists would take up, but Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) is changing the narrative. Fried is a gubernatorial candidate in the upcoming Florida elections and recently sued the Justice Department for infringing on the constitutional rights of cannabis users in her state.
Cannabis Users And Gun Rights
Currently, people must complete a federal form that inquires explicitly about using illegal narcotics, including cannabis, to purchase a firearm. Regardless of state cannabis regulations, those who admit to using marijuana cannot purchase it and risk up to five years in prison if they lie. According to Fried, this is a major problem because it encourages those who are taking medicinal marijuana legally in their state to either fill out the application fraudulently, go for firearms on the black market, or just accept the denial of their fundamental rights.
“This is not about guns, per se,” Fried said in an interview with Marijuana Moment. “This is about the fact that, for decades, marijuana patients have been discriminated against—that they see their rights not being completely afforded to them, whether it is on housing or access to banking or employment. And this is one of their other rights.”
“If we can work with the [Biden] administration on changing this, it will actually make sure that everybody has to complete a thorough background check when it comes to purchasing a firearm,” the commissioner said. “And so the reality of the end result is that people will be more safe.”
Fried’s gun policy idea comes at a strained time in US politics – in the wake of mass shootings, and endemic gun violence, many democrats and Fried’s supporters balked at her attempt to give marijuana users gun rights. Fried, though, is of the belief that removing that marijuana stipulation from the federal background check would actually promote gun safety and more thorough background checks. It would also increase above-board firearm purchases.
Fried has a track record of advocating for gun control, so when gun rights groups first learned about this plan to grant legal access to firearms to medicinal cannabis patients, several objected. Key supporters have changed their minds about the plan since the commissioner took part in roundtable discussions to educate the skeptics. Her next goal is the DoJ.
Fried filed the lawsuit with the help of two medical marijuana users in the state, as well as Neill Franklin, a retired police officer and former executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), who has chosen not to use medical cannabis despite its value as a pain reliever because of the possible effects on gun rights.
The lawsuit states that the DoJ and ATF’s “irrational, inconsistent, and incoherent federal marijuana policy undermines Florida’s medical marijuana and firearms laws and prevents Commissioner Fried from ensuring that Floridians receive the state rights relating to them.”
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a congressional spending bill rider that forbids the Justice Department from using federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state-level medical cannabis initiatives, is a central tenet of the legal challenge. This interpretation is the basis for a significant portion of the case.
The lawsuit claims that by stopping Florida from accepting new patients to expand its programme, the federal government is effectively breaching that rider by preventing people like Franklin from taking medical marijuana without running the risk of losing their right to own firearms.
The DoJ must respond to Fried’s suit by the end of this week. In an email to Marijuana Moment on Monday, a representative for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is named as a defendant in Fried’s case, stated that the organization is “unable to comment on anything while in litigation.” By the time of publishing, the Justice Department had not responded to a request for comment.
Despite having minimal engagement with the Department of Justice since the suit was filed, Fried’s office is pushing forward, seeking out Biden administration officials in an effort to inform them of the issue.
“We had offered a conversation with any of their attorneys, or even somebody from the White House, to continue briefing them on it,” she said, “because, at the end of the day, what we are looking for is for the federal government to take action on cannabis reform.”
Case attorney Will Hall expects DOJ to take one of two approaches: submit a response on the merits or file a motion to dismiss. If their history is any indication of the future, though, they’ll likely request a deadline extension.
In an ideal world, the DoJ would respond to the suit with an open mind, and cannabis reform would be enacted throughout the country. We certainly hope that soon, marijuana users will have equal access to everything, from banking to healthcare to even firearms. Federal policy should have no bearing on state actions in this instance, and it should be up to the individual states to legislate their laws regarding guns and weed.
Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!