Legalization of medical and recreational marijuana have been spreading across the states, leading to increased struggles between state and federal legislation. But what does this mean for responsible gun owners? U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney, Douglas Richards, breaks down the latest in Colorado laws for marijuana use in regards to possessing and owning a firearm.
Let’s start with a little primer on the Colorado marijuana laws. You can purchase with a medical marijuana card up to three ounces of marijuana; under the recreational side, you can purchase up to two ounces of marijuana. With both systems, you can grow up to six plants, of which three can be flowering. Now, you have to be at least 18 to purchase on the medical marijuana side; you have to be at least 21 to purchase on the recreational side.
It is illegal either to display marijuana or consume it in public. It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. This is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol laws, and carries the same penalties. And it is illegal to be under the influence of marijuana and possess a firearm.
Now, there are no laws in Colorado about possessing a firearm and possessing marijuana. We are not talking about being under the influence of marijuana; we are talking about simple possession of the two things at the same time. Colorado law is silent on whether you can or cannot do it. But here’s the rub, the federal laws make it very clear that you cannot possess both at the same time. It is a felony, and you could go to prison. In fact, when I was a federal prosecutor, I sent people to prison for being in possession of a Schedule 1 controlled substance, of which marijuana is, and a firearm. The case law is very well developed here and you want to be very careful not to get sideways with the feds.
There is no place that it becomes clearer that there is this conflict in the law than when you look at the ATF Form 4473. This form asks if you are an unlawful user or addicted to marijuana or other controlled substances.
And there’s a caveat, it says clearly that it doesn’t matter what your state laws are in terms of medical or recreational marijuana use. It remains illegal to either purchase or use marijuana under the federal laws, and when you’re filling out that ATF form, that is a form related to federal laws.
So, you need to be very careful when you are filling that form out. You must fill it out truthfully, because if you lie on that form you could be charged with a federal offense, of which when I was a prosecutor, I also charged people with and put them in prison for violating. So, you need to be very careful, and if you have any questions about this or anything else, feel free to call my office. I’m always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield members.