SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Medicinal marijuana is legal in Nevada, but that doesn’t negate federal guidelines banning drug addicts from owning guns, the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday.
S. Rowan Wilson had hoped the federal appeals court would revive her constitutional challenge to the federal firearms provision keeping her unarmed.
When Wilson had tried to buy a gun in Moundhouse, Nevada, she was a card-carrying member of the Nevada marijuana registry.
Moundhouse is a small community, and the owner of the gunsmith where Wilson was shopping on Oct. 4, 2011, knew she had gotten her medical card just five months earlier.
He also knew that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was trying to coordinate its regulations with the spread of medical-marijuana laws around the country.
In September 2011, the ATF published an open letter that marijuana addicts are considered prohibited firearms buyers, regardless of their state’s medicinal marijuana laws.
The owner of the gun store Wilson visited received this letter three days before her visit. Wilson claimed in her federal complaint against the government that its letter was to blame for her not getting a gun that day.
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, however, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed Wednesday.
Senior U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff wrote the ruling for the circuit’s three-judge panel, sitting by designation from Manhattan.
The 30-page opinion cites several issues with Wilson’s complaint.
“Wilson has not alleged that she is an unlawful drug user or that she is addicted to any controlled substance,” Rakoff wrote. “Nor has she alleged that she possessed or received a firearm. Accordingly, Wilson has not alleged that § 922(g)(3) has injured her in any way.”
Though Wilson argued that the ban unconstitutionally burdens her right to bear arms, Rakoff said the regulations at issue had no bearing on her ability to buy guns before getting her medical card.
“Wilson could have amassed legal firearms before acquiring a registry card … and the Open Letter would not impede her right to keep her firearms or to use them to protect herself and her home,” Rakoff wrote. “In addition, Wilson could acquire firearms and exercise her right to self-defense at any time by surrendering her registry card, thereby demonstrating to a firearms dealer that there is no reasonable cause to believe she is an unlawful drug user.”
Wilson also failed to show that the ban violates her First Amendment free-speech rights.
Even though her acquisition of the card is definitely a protected speech act, Rakoff said strict scrutiny of the law and the open letter does not apply because the ban does not target anyone’s speech rights Wilson’s claims of a government crackdown on medical marijuana notwithstanding.
“The production, distribution, and use of medical marijuana are not protected by the First Amendment, and efforts by the Government to impede—or even eliminate altogether—the production, distribution, and use of medical marijuana are not evidence of any conspiracy against free speech,” Rakoff wrote.
Las Vegas attorney Charles Rainey represented Wilson. He said that he was pleased the circuit gave the case its sufficient attention. Though Rainey would have preferred an alternate outcome, he said the case will press on.
“We are going to litigate this, exhaust whatever remedies we have,” he said.
Rainey also said the he believes the real thrust of the case is the First Amendment.
“When this letter was issued, it was issued as part of a deliberate attempt by the DOJ to quell a political movement,” Rainey said.
Wilson stressed in an interview that this case is about patients’ rights and making sure the government does not infringe on them.
“This is about more than my Second Amendment rights,” Wilson said. “This is about people and patients, and what they are putting in their body.”
Losing today did not come as a surprise, Wilson added.
“We thought it was pretty clear from the case that the government is going after political activists,” said Wilson, who notes that she has a master’s in business administration and is the founder of a company called Mary Janes World Group Cos.
Wilson noted that she is renewing her medical marijuana card in Nevada right now, and that she also lives in Tacoma, Washington.
The Justice Department declined to comment. DOJ attorney Abby Wright argued this appeal for the government.
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