Cannabis Users Regain Gun Ownership Rights
The fallout from the federal appeals court decision made on August 10, 2023, is totally rewriting the rulebook on cannabis and gun ownership, sending us into uncharted legal territory.
Many green-positive Americans have long been made to choose between two distinct worlds – enjoying cannabis legally or maintaining their right to bear arms. But now, a new legal bombshell has shattered the barriers that kept marijuana users from fully embracing the Second Amendment.
Spilling the Courtroom Tea
Working out of New Orleans, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court recently heard arguments on the constitutionality of a federal law that had once stripped away the gun ownership rights of illegal drug users.
In their unanimous decision, the justices agreed that the current law infringed on the constitutional right of a Mississippi man, Patrick Daniels, to “keep and bear arms” as protected by the Second Amendment.
How We Got Here
After a traffic stop in Hancock County, Mississippi on April 25, 2022 revealed a pistol, a semi-automatic rifle, and the lingering scent of marijuana cigarette butts within his vehicle, Daniels was charged and convicted under the federal law that aimed to sever firearm ownership from those who used illicit drugs.
His disclosure about using cannabis stood as an unshakable admission that the prosecution pounced on. Daniels ran up against a stiff law and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.
However, the law actually began to change even before Daniels’ case reached its peak.
Painting the Full Picture
The United States Supreme Court really turned the legal landscape upside down around a year before Daniels’ case reached its verdict.
In a landmark decision, the Court declared that the Second Amendment was not confined solely to private domains, saying it encompassed the right to carry a handgun for self-defense in public as well.
This massive ruling, titled New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, introduced a new way to evaluate firearms laws: A test pinned to the “historical tradition of firearm regulation” in the nation.
This set the stage for Daniels’ case to unfold in the wake of this pivotal Supreme Court decision.
The Verdict: A Victory for Daniels
In the end, all three judges decided that the old law infringed on his right to keep and bear arms.
One of the circuit judges, Judge Jerry Smith who is a product of President Reagan’s days, drew a crystal-clear connection between the Supreme Court’s earlier decision and the statute at hand.
He simply pointed out that the new test introduced by the Supreme Court essentially invalidated the statute as it was applied to Daniels.
The Court in Its Own Words
With their decision, the justices noted: “Throughout American history, laws have regulated the combination of guns and intoxicating substances. But at no point in the 18th or 19th century did the government disarm individuals who used drugs or alcohol at one time from possessing guns at another,” the court said.
“In short, our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to carry a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage,” the opinion, written by Judge Smith continued. “Nor do more generalized traditions of disarming dangerous persons support this restriction on nonviolent drug users.”
A Word of Caution
As we teased before, the legal story doesn’t end with this ruling at all. Instead, it’s just the beginning of what lies ahead. U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson, a President Obama appointee, wrote a concurring opinion with a cautionary twist.
Judge Higginson, noting that many other safety laws had changed after the Supreme Court’s decision, asked the courts to be as specific as possible in upcoming cases. He worried that the rules he feels protect the country might be changed so much that they don’t work anymore. Time will tell.
That all said, Higginson’s plea highlighted the delicate balance that must be struck as we find ourselves at the crossroads of the evolving intersection of personal rights and public safety.
No matter how the future shakes out, one thing is certain: We are at the beginning of legal transformation. Daniels’ victory is more than a personal triumph for one person. His is a triumph for individual rights and the principles that shape them.
After this legal battle, there will be more to come. What happened to Patrick Daniels shows that one person’s win can lead to a bigger conversation. The court’s call for more structured laws is a reminder that this isn’t just about one case – it’s about making sure everyone’s rights safety are balanced.
As we keep going forward, we’ll have to see how this journey unfolds.