The ATF has issued an open letter to FFLs regarding medicinal cannabis use and ATF Form 4473. I have wondered about this issue for years. Many states allow legal use of medical cannabis, but federal law does not. I even recently asked a local law enforcement officer about this issue. He told me that question 11.e is straightforward and simple:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
I argued that the question is purposely ambiguous, and can be interpreted in many ways. For example, are smokers addicts according to this question? What about those that must drink three cups of coffee per day to stay awake? I would argue, without question, that both smokers and habitual coffee drinkers are “addicted to…[a] controlled substance”.
I asked him if recreational drug use of legal drugs could be interpreted as (unlawful) addiction (as is often interpreted by the medical community). This is where we tended to disagree. I argued that his recreational use of caffeine, alcohol, and chewing tobacco could be interpreted as drug abuse, thereby prohibiting him from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition.
Caffeine is an addictive psychoactive stimulant.
Alcohol is an addictive depressant.
Tobacco products are addictive stimulants.
The ATF letter also cites federal law that:
makes it unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance.
The problem with a purposely ambiguous question like 11.e on ATF Form 4473 is that it implies there is a national standard for addiction, and that all FFL holders are experts in addiction identification. Holding FFLs liable for selling firearms and ammunition to people they “have reasonable cause to believe” may be addicted to any controlled substance is a dangerously slippery slope. Who defines reasonable?
Here’s a hypothetical situation- put yourself in the shoes of the licensee:
A potential customer enters your store to buy a firearm from your business. The customer is chewing tobacco and drinking an energy drink that is high in caffeine. During the course of conversation, the customer mentions that he is hungover from a party the night before.
Do you have reasonable cause to believe this person is an addict? Recreational drug use is often considered drug abuse. But you are not a medical professional, you are a small business owner. The ATF is effectively asking you to be the doctor of every customer that enters your store.
I think it goes without saying that the next step for ATF regulators will be to try and obtain the records of current and past medicinal cannabis users from state governments. I’m still trying to find the part in the Second Amendment that says that unlawful users (or addicts) of any controlled substance are precluded from owning firearms…
For reference (according to CDC, Drugfree.org, NIDA):
Annual deaths attributable to caffeine: somewhere in the thousands, but much more when combined with alcohol
Annual deaths attributable to alcohol: 79,000
Annual deaths attributable to tobacco: 443,000
Annual deaths attributable to marijuana: 0
I have no idea what the goal of these restrictions are (and I personally contest their constitutionality), but if they are to prevent drug users from owning guns, perhaps all tobacco users should be the first people banned from gun ownership. They clearly pose the biggest danger to themselves from drug abuse…
Credit to AmmoLand for the tip.