You can't have one of these if you employ cannabis to relieve the pain of cancer or somesuch. Photo: Jacob Munk-Stander
You can't have one of these if you employ cannabis to relieve the pain of cancer or somesuch. Photo: Jacob Munk-Stander
You can't have one of these if you employ cannabis to relieve the pain of cancer or somesuch. Photo: Jacob Munk-Stander

You can’t have one of these if you employ cannabis to relieve the pain of cancer or somesuch. Photo:
Jacob Munk-Stander

A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled that a federal ban on the sale of firearms to medical marijuana users does not infringe the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which grants the right to keep and bear arms to one and all and is seen as protection against tyranny. Nine western states including California and Washington fall under the jurisdiction of this court, eight of which have legalised medical marijuana.

The lawsuit

The lawsuit arose because S Rowan Wilson, a women in Nevada, was not permitted to purchase a firearm in 2011 on the grounds that federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to users of illegal drugs. While 25 states and the District of Columbia allow cannabis for medical purposes and a further nine states are expected to contemplate this step this year, the drug is illegal nationally; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued guidance in 2011 stating that medical marijuana users should not be sold firearms, putting them in the same category as career criminals and mentally ill people. Folk prescribed opiates or other considerably more dangerous and addictive drugs have no problem. Wilson does not use marijuana but obtained a medical marijuana card to support legalisation of the drug. The Court conceded that Wilson’s Second Amendment rights were burdened, but that this “is not severe.”

The Court took the stance that Congress had determined that use of cannabis “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behaviour.” Kathleen Bryson, a lawyer in California, countered that she knew people who employed cannabis in the face of serious medical conditions that include arthritis, cancer, depression, kidney failure, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, HIV, brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder (see articles passim), and that the evidence shows that marijuana users are less violent.

Wilson’s attorney, Chaz Rainey, will appeal, although this is unlikely to be successful because the Supremes usually only take cases where there are conflicting decisions, which was not the case in this instance. Rainey highlighted that medical marijuana usage means that firearms ownership is prohibited but being on the no fly list doesn’t, although the notorious inaccuracies of this list weaken his argument somewhat.

You know, perhaps it should be allowed

Dr Daniel Brubaker, who prescribes marijuana to some patients, framed the question of why the Federal Firearms Transaction form, as well as asking if people use any controlled substances, doesn’t ask if people drink alcohol because it “stirs up a lot of anger and it leads to crazy things like people using their guns.” He also spoke of the “medicinal value” of cannabis and lamented, “Why they demonise it is just hard for me to understand.”

This puts us in the same camp as right-wing loonies

This affair has made for strange bedfellows. Right-wing websites describe the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals as “infamously liberal,” earning it the nickname, “the ninth circus.” They see the Court as hostile to Second Amendment rights and that this is “yet another back door effort by the federal government to restrict constitutional rights.”

Why anyone would wish to own a firearm is another matter. In the United States, 10,000 people die in murders and 20,000 from suicides where guns are used every year. Around the same number of people is killed by guns as die on the roads. A small fraction of incidents are mass shootings a Orlando, Florida, in June 2016, where 50 people perished.

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