Marijuana and Guns in Arizona
First, we’re going to outline state and federal laws that affect marijuana and guns.
Arizona Medical Marijuana
Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2010, also known as Prop 203 at the time. This bill legalized the cultivation and use of marijuana for debilitating medial conditions. With the passage of the law, the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZ DHS) began designing the program, receiving public comments, and creating operational rules. On December 5th, 2012, the first medical marijuana dispensary opened. Qualifying patients who wish to use marijuana for medical purposes must visit a licensed and be diagnosed with certain debilitating conditions. If the physician wishes to prescribe marijuana for a qualifying condition, they certify their diagnosis in writing using the statutory form. The patient then submits an application to AZ DHS to obtain a medical marijuana card which permits them to purchase at approved medical marijuana dispensaries. Patient cards are valid for 2 years, at which point they are required to renew it if they wish to continue using medical marijuana. Medical Marijuana patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, of which no more than 12.5 grams is in the form of cannabis concentrate every 2 weeks.
Arizona Recreational Marijuana
Arizona voters passed the Safe and Smart Arizona Act (SSAA) in 2020, also known at the time as Prop 207. This was viewed as a major victory for marijuana activists as it legalized recreational marijuana use. The bill allows for individuals 21 years of age and older to:
- Purchase marijuana at licensed dispensaries
- Possess up to 1oz of marijuana, with no more than 5 grams being concentrate
- Cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants at home, or up to 12 plants in a home with 2 or more qualified adults
- Expunge eligible marijuana convictions
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, regardless of its status under current Arizona law (or any other state for that matter). Marijuana and its cannaboids are still listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act. Federal law does not provide any exemptions even if state law allows it. That means that growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity is a violation of federal law.
Clear as mud, right? There is a conflict between Arizona and federal law. What does this mean for marijuana use in Arizona? Under the Supremacy clause of the United States Constitution the federal government could likely invalidate state laws. Additionally, the federal government can arrest and prosecute anyone involved in growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in Arizona if they choose to. Fortunately, as of now the federal government via the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona has chosen not to do so. The US Attorney for the district of Arizona is essentially “looking the other way” when it comes to marijuana use in Arizona.
Marijuana and Guns
So how does marijuana relate to firearm possession? Again, we are looking at a “as clear as mud” situation.
When you purchase a firearm from a FFL (a licensed dealer such as a gun shop) you are required to complete ATF Form 4473. The 4473 to put it simply is your background check and firearm transaction record. The 4473 asks you a series of questions, on of which being “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 for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”. Does this make a light bulb in your head go off? It should! You’re required to provide accurate and honest answers on the 4473, so if you use either medical or recreational marijuana you will be required to select “Yes” for that question. At that point, the FFL cannot legally proceed with the sale. Likewise, the marijuana user is prohibited from purchasing the firearm. In addition to that, the marijuana user cannot possess any firearms or ammunition according to Federal law. This fact has been clearly reinforced by the BATFE in an open letter to all FFLs.
With all of this, it should be pretty clear that marijuana and guns do not mix. You are stuck making a personal decision of whether firearm ownership or marijuana use is more important to you. We do not recommend mixing the two as that opens you up to a variety of criminal charges. If you have questions about your individual circumstances, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We offer affordable legal advice consultations in which we can help address questions specific to your situation.