According to Rachel Malone, Texas director for Gun Owners of America, “To tell Texans you can’t purchase a firearm if you have a compassionate use card is unconscionable.” She went on to tell The Dallas Morning News, “We should not force people to choose between gun ownership and taking care of themselves.” Let’s learn about medical marijuana and gun laws in Texas.
Many of the 20 states that have legalized cannabis medicinally and the dozen-plus that have adult-use recreational marijuana are dealing with this guns-don’t-mix-with-marijuana issue. Why? Because of federal law. And Texas, putting it mildly, is a pro-gun state, where potential MMJ patients aren’t likely to trade in one right for another (guns for low-THC medical cannabis).
Compassionate Care Act: Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws in Texas
State Rep. Stephanie Klick, also a nurse, authored the bill that expanded the Compassionate Care Act to include more medical conditions and supports gun rights. Klick said she’d be surprised to find that legal MMJ patients are using firearms because the bill is intended to include patients with very specifically debilitating conditions.
“These are very sick people,” she told The Dallas Morning News. “People with spasticity have mobility issues. People with ALS over time will become ventilator-dependent. They’re not going to go out and buy guns.”
But others disagree and say that there are plenty of patients that meet the threshold and are not ready to give up their right to purchase and own a gun.
Either way, it’s not up to individuals or even lawmakers in Texas. Or any state. The barrier to gun ownership for MMJ patients is a federal one.
Guns + MMJ = Federally Illegal
Until marijuana is no longer a Schedule I drug, it will not be federally legal to use cannabis or purchase and possess a firearm as a registered medical patient. Even if your state allows it.
When it comes to possessing medical cannabis in states where it is legal, the U.S. congress has forbidden the Department of Justice to spend funds on enforcing federal cannabis law on the state level. It’s part of an appropriations bill that has been reenacted since 2014. It has even held up in court. So, state laws rule.
But no such rider bill protects state medicinal cannabis programs from the Gun Control Act (GSA). This is because of Federal Firearm Licenses or FFLs. Gun dealers must be federally licensed per the GSA. This requires all potential firearms buyers to fill out the ATF Firearms Transaction Record form 4473.
Question 11(e) asks prospective gun purchasers if they are unlawfully using any controlled substances. You may think you can answer “No” because marijuana is legal in your state. But this statement immediately follows in bold:
“Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law, regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
If you answer truthfully, the FFL dealer could lose their license if they sell the gun to you. If you lie, you could be charged with perjury.
Cannabis and gun ownership remains a muddy area that will only become clear when federal cannabis law changes.
What Are the Penalties for Purchasing or Owning a Firearm with a Texas MMJ Card?
Anyone who possesses a firearm and uses medical cannabis is in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922. This can get you 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
A patient falsifying information on their background check to buy a gun is a separate crime punishable by 5 years.
Unfortunately, the Second Amendment doesn’t protect registered MMJ patients from prosecution. In 2016, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana prohibitions do not violate the Second Amendment. They determined this on the grounds that marijuana is linked to “irrational or unpredictable behavior.”
What Happens if I’m Caught with Weed and a Gun?
If you are caught with marijuana and a gun in Texas, the consequences can be severe. Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor under Texas law, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Additionally, if the marijuana was particularly concentrated (over four ounces) or a firearm was used in the commission of the crime, then it may be charged as a felony that carries additional penalties.
It’s also important to note that having both marijuana and a gun on your person can result in separate charges for each item. This means that you could face two separate punishments for possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a firearm at the same time.
The bottom line here is that if you are caught with marijuana and a gun in Texas, you could face serious criminal penalties. It is therefore prudent to avoid such situations wherever possible.
Elevate Holistics: Medical Marijuana Doctors in Texas
At Elevate Holistics, we want MMJ patients to understand their right to access medicinal cannabis and the scope of all that comes along with it. If you own a firearm and are a qualifying patient, you should be aware that technically you are in violation of federal law.
Elevate is an online clinic offering certifications with compassionate registered cannabis doctors. Medical cannabis patients can book same-day appointments and get certified from the convenience of their home. In addition, we are a medical cannabis resource that partners with other industry experts to help make MMJ as easy and accessible as possible.
Still have questions about medical marijuana and gun laws in Texas?
See what Oklahoma’s doing to protect gun rights for MMJ patients.