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Medical pot smokers cannot purchase guns, weapons, Feds say

Though medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, the drug is still regarded as an illegal scheduled substance by the federal government. Given the federal government sets the rules on who can own guns, medicinal marijuana smokers of this state and 15 others are barred from owning guns.The point was reiterated in a late September letter written (PDF) by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and sent to federal firearms licensees. Owners of gun stores are instructed to withhold the sale of arms or munitions to anyone suspected of having an interaction or addiction to scheduled drugs, including marijuana. The letter specifies individuals known to have a medicinal marijuana card can be reasonably assumed to be an abuser of a controlled substance and gun shop owners must refuse purchase.

Moreover, the letter affirms the illegality of a medicinal marijuana smoker purchasing weapons. Already, those who seek to purchase firearms or ammunition must fill out ATF Form 4473. Question 11.e. specifically asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Answering ‘yes’ legally bars the individual from purchasing guns or ammunition.

The ATF letter several times referred to marijuana as an addictive drug. According to a summary of the book The Science of Marijuana (2008) in Psychology Today, a person’s risk of developing an addiction to marijuana is roughly 9 percent, compared to 33 percent for tobacco users and 15 percent for alcohol users.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson signed Senate Bill 523, known as the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, into law in September of 2007.

At the time of the passage, Richardson said: “I’m proud to sign legislation that makes patient care an important priority in this state…It is time for Congress and the federal government to follow our lead and help those forced to endure painful, chronic diseases.”

The New Mexico Independent called ATF for clarification on penalties associated with offering misleading information while purchasing a firearm; a response from the bureau is pending. In May, The American Independent wrote on the intense politicking that went into federal officials scrubbing information on the medical benefits of marijuana from a National Institutes of Health database.

For more information about the state’s medical marijuana program, visit the New Mexico Infectious Disease Bureau.

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