COURTS & LEGAL

Judge: Banning guns for marijuana users unconstitutional

Feb 5, 2023, 2:47 PM

FILE (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)...

FILE (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a federal law prohibiting people who use marijuana from owning firearms is unconstitutional, the latest challenge to firearms regulations after the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority set new standards for reviewing the nation’s gun laws.

Lawyers for Jared Michael Harrison had argued that their client’s Second Amendment right to bear arms was being violated by a federal law that makes it illegal for “unlawful users or addicts of controlled substances” to possess firearms.

Harrison had been charged after being arrested by police in Lawton, Oklahoma, in May 2022 following a traffic stop. During a search of his car, police found a loaded revolver as well as marijuana. Harrison told police he had been on his way to work at a medical marijuana dispensary, but that he did not have a state-issued medical-marijuana card.

His lawyers had argued the portion of federal firearms law focused on drug users or addicts was not consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, echoing what the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled last year in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. That case set new standards for interpreting the Second Amendment.

Federal prosecutors had argued that the portion of the law focused on drug users is “consistent with a longstanding historical tradition in America of disarming presumptively risky persons, namely, felons, the mentally ill, and the intoxicated.”

U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick in Oklahoma City agreed with Harrison’s lawyers, ruling on Friday that federal prosecutors’ arguments that Harrison’s status as a marijuana user “justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm … is not a constitutionally permissible means of disarming Harrison.”

“But the mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports,” said Wyrick, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. In his ruling, Wyrick highlighted that under Oklahoma law, marijuana can be bought legally at more than 2,000 store fronts in the state.

Attorneys for Harrison, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, which was prosecuting the case, did not immediately return emails seeking comment Sunday.

The ruling came a day after a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Thursday ruled that the government can’t stop people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns. The panel referenced the Bruen decision in its ruling. Two of the three judges on the panel are Trump appointees.

The Justice Department has said it will seek further review of the appeals court’s decision.

In September, a federal judge in Midland, Texas, ruled that a firearms law that bans those under felony indictment from buying guns is unconstitutional. In that case, U.S. District Judge David Counts, also a Trump appointee, also echoed the Supreme Court’s language in the Bruen case, saying there was “little evidence” the ban related to being under indictment “aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition.”

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Judge: Banning guns for marijuana users unconstitutional