There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the topics of medical marijuana and concealed pistol licenses (“CPL”). I get asked by folks all the time if they can obtain a medical marijuana patient card if they already have their CPL or vice versa. Like all issues in the area of medical marijuana law, the answer to this question is complicated by the fact that possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana is illegal under federal law under any circumstance.
In short, there is nothing in Michigan law that prohibits a person who is otherwise eligible from obtaining a patient registry card from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program and also obtaining a CPL. In fact, Section 4 of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) offers patients and caregivers who are compliant with the requirements of the MMMA immunity from any penalty from their medical use of marijuana. Arguably, this immunity would also extend to prohibit a patient or caregiver from being denied a CPL.
This does not mean that there are not potential risks and consequences of possessing a firearm while possessing or using medical marijuana. In fact, there are substantial risks and possible criminal penalties that you should consider before making a decision as to whether you should obtain both a medical marijuana card and a CPL.
First, you should keep in mind that marijuana is still illegal under both Michigan and federal law. While the MMMA provides some protections for medical use of marijuana under Michigan law, if you do not meet these protections, you could be subject to criminal felony charges. Under Michigan law, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony is its own separate felony offense, known as Felony Firearm. Felony Firearm is an extremely serious charge because it carries a mandatory 2-year prison sentence that would run consecutive to any other sentence. It is not necessary that the firearm be on your person or within reach to constitute possession. Under the doctrine of constructive possession, the notion of “possessing” the firearm during the commission of a felony is far broader than you might think. You can be convicted of felony firearm even if the firearm is in a different room of the home or if the firearm is unloaded. There does not need to be any connection between the firearm and the charged felony—“possession” is all that is required.
If you decide that you are going to accept this risk and possess a firearm while using medical marijuana, it is critically important that you familiarize yourself with Section 4 and Section 8 of the MMMA, which list the protections of the Act and the requirements to assert these protections. Again, you are only protected under the MMMA if you meet these requirements. They must be taken extremely seriously—particularly if you keep firearms in your home or intend to obtain your CPL.
Second, marijuana is illegal under federal law. Possession of a firearm by a user of illegal drugs, which would include marijuana, is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison at the federal level. Moreover, as part of the background screening to purchase a firearm, potential purchasers are required to complete ATF Form 4473, which requires the potential purchaser to answer:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
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.”
Answering “yes” to this question will almost certainly disqualify you from completing the purchase of the firearm. Lying on ATF Form 4473 is a felony that could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
In sum, marijuana and firearms do not mix well together under Michigan or federal law. You should think carefully and fully understand the consequences and substantial risks that come from firearm ownership if you are a medical marijuana patient or caregiver.
If you are a medical marijuana patient or caregiver facing criminal charges, you need an experienced medical marijuana attorney on your side to fight for your rights. Contact our office today for a free consultation.
An associate attorney with Grewal Law PLLC in Okemos, Michigan, John Fraser focuses on general litigation, criminal defense, cannabis law, and appellate law. John is also an adjunct professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he teaches a course on Medical Marijuana and the Law.