STATE AND FEDERAL GUN LAWS AGREE: MEDICAL CANNABIS AND GUNS DON'T MIX
Whether you're operating in a state or federal arena, possession of guns and medical cannabis can complicate your life significantly.
Cannabis with Guns can Result in More Prison Time than Murder!
In terms of federal gun laws, possession of guns and cannabis will increase a defendant's prison sentence exponentially. For example, in 2004 in Utah, federal Judge Paul G. Cassell sentenced a man who beat an elderly woman to death with a log—to 22 years. A few hours later, Cassell sentenced Weldon H. Angelos, a 25-year-old first-time drug offender, to 55 years. If you think Cassell liked sentencing a small-change drug dealer to more time than a violent killer, guess again, he called it “unjust, cruel and even irrational.” But the judge had no choice. Federal mandatory minimum laws demanded the sentence—a jury found Angelos guilty on three separate charges of possessing a firearm while he sold a half- pound of cannabis for $350. The first charge of possessing a gun during a drug transaction brought a five-year sentence—the second two, 25 years each. That adds up to 55 years.
The week before that, the Albuquerque Journal reported on a case in which a federal judge claimed that he sentenced a man who killed his own mother to 6 1/2 years after he sentenced a 29-year-old mother of three to life without parole because she had a gun while dealing cannabis.
The message for Californians who use medical cannabis should be pretty clear: The federal government may go after you for using the plant, and the penalty can be harsh if you possess both legal (in California) medical cannabis and a lawfully-owned gun.
Fortunately, there is a mechanism for mercy. Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) are working together on legislation to grant federal judges more judicial discretion under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing system.
According to the Feds, Medical Cannabis Users Cannot Possess A Gun!
In 2011, the ATF issued a memo that declared that it is illegal for anyone with an MMJ card to possess a gun or ammunition. Violating this could carry a 5- or 10-year sentence in federal prison.
In Colorado, where nearly 100,000 people use medical cannabis and possessing small amounts is legal, the answer seems complicated. Everyone shopping for a gun has to fill out federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form 4473. One question on the form is simple: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Brad Buyerstore, spokesman for ATF, said that being an MMJ cardholder bars Coloradans from legally purchasing firearms under federal law. While the federal government has no way of knowing whether applicants have a card, Buyerstore said, the agency takes a grim view of anyone who “knowingly makes false statements in connection with the purchase of a firearm,” and therefore is committing a crime.
Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to Congress that would protect residents who abide by state cannabis laws from federal prosecution.
Bottom Line: Although some say we need not fear hippies and guns, the intent and history of this law is clear: Government officials want to strongly discourage the mixture of weapons and “controlled substances.” Medical cannabis s relatively new, and the peaceful MMJ salesman is an even newer concept. So, although you may want to cling to the Second Amendment, you must choose—cannabis or guns.
Attorney Meital Manzuri is a medical cannabis expert, collective consultant and experienced criminal defense attorney. Those with questions about starting a collective or interested in scheduling a free consultation can call (310) 601-3140 or go to manzurilaw.com.
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