FARMINGTON – As more states move to legalize marijuana, use of the Schedule 1 controlled substance remains a barrier for Americans seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
That is because use of the drug, either medicinally or recreationally, remains illegal under federal law and is a disqualifying factor for someone seeking to purchase a firearm.
Before purchasing a firearm, buyers must complete a form as part of a background check that is submitted to the FBI. Box 21.e of that form asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other substance?”
But with so many states legalizing medicinal and/or recreational marijuana, the question can cause head-scratching.
In New Mexico, marijuana is legal for medicinal use, and in Colorado, marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use.
“I leave it up to their interpretation,” said Robin Blanchard, who owns the Kimo Vista Solutions gun shop in Farmington, along with her husband, Gordon. “I’m not here to interpret the questions.”
But the rest of the box reads: “Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the states where you reside.”
As it turns out, checking yes, even for medicinal use, automatically disqualifies the potential buyer from being able to purchase a firearm.
“If you designate that you use marijuana, even medicinal, it’s still against federal law,” Gordon Blanchard said. “We don’t ask, but if someone says, ‘Oh, yeah, I have a marijuana card,’ we will not complete the transaction.”
“... I don’t want to be the bad guy to say, ‘Well, you told me... .’ So we just always go, mmmmm,” Robin Blanchard said, making a zipping-the-lips gesture.
The rest of the application asks other questions, such as whether the buyer is a fugitive from justice.
“If you check on some of these, ‘yes,’ then that stops the process because this is a federal legal piece of paper that can be used against you in a court of law,” Blanchard said. “If you check ‘no,’ that’s your decision on how you want to answer it.”
After an application is submitted, there are three outcomes: proceed to sell, deny and delay. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System can take up to three business days to review a person’s application. If the shop doesn’t hear from the system in three days, the shop can automatically sell to the applicant/buyer.
“I’m not judge and jury,” Blanchard said. “So if you interpret this as a ‘no,’ then check no, and we’re good.”
Blanchard said she believes there are benefits to medicinal use, including for those who suffer with epilepsy.
“I think there are some positive things that we need to seriously look at,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said with more states legalizing, the government will eventually have to evaluate the background check question as it relates to marijuana use.
“What’s the difference between marijuana and alcohol?” Blanchard said. “You know, we’re kind of penalizing these people, especially if it is medicinally used, versus alcohol, because right now alcohol doesn’t have any medicinal use reasons.”
Blanchard said that marijuana might even be a recovery tool to help people bounce back from the distressing ails of the pandemic.