Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took advantage of the 420 cannabis community holiday last week to announce that she is suing the federal government over a policy that prevents
At an appearance at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Miami last Wednesday, Fried said the ban on guns is “discrimination unique to medical marijuana patients” caused by the federal government’s “misguided and dangerous cannabis prohibition.” She was joined by patients who were denied firearm purchases because of their status as registered medical marijuana patients.
“Current federal policy forces them to choose between their rights and their medicine,”
Fried noted that she is also a registered medical cannabis patient and has a permit to carry a concealed firearm. As agriculture commissioner, her duties include overseeing the issuance of concealed carry permits and regulating some aspects of Florida’s medical marijuana industry.
“Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is all about people’s rights,”
Decade-Old Gun Ban
Guidance from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) going back to 2011 informs federally licensed firearms dealers not to sell guns to people they know to use cannabis and those “addicted to marijuana.” When purchasing a firearm, customers are asked to sign a form that includes a notice to prospective gun buyers.
“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,” reads the notice on ATF form 4473.
Buyers are then asked if they are permitted by the state to use cannabis. If they answer affirmatively, the purchase is denied. Failure to complete the form truthfully can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Fried is suing the federal government in her official capacity as agriculture commissioner with three citizens who have been affected by the federal policy. The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by NBC, argues that the form violates the Second Amendment and is contrary to federal policy that prevents law enforcement agencies from taking action against marijuana activities legal under state law. The ATF and Attorney General Merrick Garland are named as defendants in the legal action.
Fried’s lawsuit notes that in an unrelated case before the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Justice Clarence Thomas expressed concerns about the “half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids use of marijuana.”
“This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary,” Thomas said.
The suit also notes that while previous lawsuits have attempted to challenge the ban on guns for cannabis consumers, the most recent effort presented “a thin and stale factual record” that failed to include the results of a federal study that concluded that “marijuana use does not induce violent crime.” Fried said that the prohibition deprives medical cannabis patients of their constitutional rights.
“Denying the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana users is not about safety,” Fried said.
Fried’s top challenger for the Democratic nomination for governor is former U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. When asked about the lawsuit, Crist said the filing of the action showed “interesting timing.”
“You know, the Biden Administration has a lot of things it has to deal with right now, and I think that marijuana should be legalized, recreationally,” said Crist. “I think it’s appropriate. I don’t know if this is the best timing for such a lawsuit. But everybody has to do what they feel is important, and I’m sure that that’s what she’s doing.”