Arkansas is a shall-issue, constitutional carry state. And it is also a legal medical cannabis state. Patients in MMJ states all over the country are asking, can I have a gun and a medical marijuana card?

Five months after Arkansas enacted Amendment 98 in November 2016, handgun carrying laws in Arkansas expanded. Amendment 98, a voter-led initiative, resulted in legal medical cannabis in the Natural State. But federal law prohibits gun owners who register as MMJ patients from purchasing or even owning a gun. 

That’s when Robert Brech began warning the public about gun prohibition for registered patients. The general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Health told Arkansas Public Media,

“I’ve been invited to talk to a number of groups around the state about medical marijuana,” he says, “and I always bring it up and there are always questions. But it's clear under federal law that it’s a Schedule 1 substance and illegal. So it’s not something I would recommend, anyone getting a registration card if they plan to purchase or use firearms.”

In November 2019, Scott Hardin of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said the situation was confusing. 

According to THV11 news,

“The state of Arkansas did not take a position and say ‘hey, here's the rule' — the federal government did,” Hardin said.

Arkansas doesn’t mention anything specific about firearms in the MMJ rules. 

“What does exist is a federal law, which says you cannot use marijuana which is illegal on the federal level and own or possess a firearm,” Hardin said. “It complicates things. It really does. There's not a simple yes-no answer to a lot of these things.”

Guns and MMJ Are Illegal at the Federal Level

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. Therefore, 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 are required to be federally licensed per the GSA. This requires all potential firearms buyers to fill out the ATF Firearms Transaction Record form 4473.

Medical marijuana and gun laws: 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 an Arkansas MMJ Card?

Anyone who possesses a firearm and uses medical cannabis is in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922,  which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

If a patient falsifies information on their background check in order to buy a gun, that’s 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 on the grounds that marijuana is linked to “irrational or unpredictable behavior.” 

Elevate Holistics

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.

Find out what Oklahoma’s doing to try to keep gun laws and MMJ a state issue

Are they trying to bypass federal gun laws for patients in Maryland

Still, have questions about medical marijuana and gun laws in Arkansas? Read our quick FAQs for the Arkansas medical cannabis program.