Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in Rhode Island?

Can You Own a Gun with a Medical Card in Rhode Island?

Although no state law directly rules that a medical marijuana cardholder cannot own a gun, Rhode Island sides with federal law, which prohibits "unlawful" users of marijuana from owning firearms. According to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), an unlawful user of a controlled substance, as outlined under the federal Controlled Substances Act, may not possess any firearm or ammunition. Note that federal law considers medical marijuana users unlawful marijuana users.

Can Rhode Island Medical Cannabis Patients Legally Carry Firearms Without Permits?

No. Rhode Island medical cannabis patients are not allowed to carry firearms. Although a permit is required to carry firearms in Rhode Island, MMJ patients cannot obtain firearms permits.

Does Rhode Island Require Background Checks for MMJ Patients Seeking Gun Licenses?

In Rhode Island, federal firearms licensees must initiate the federally mandated background check using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database for prospective gun buyers. Additionally, licensed dealers and private unlicensed sellers must perform background checks through the state police or local chief of police. However, MMJ patients will only undergo background checks if they are eligible to obtain Rhode Island gun licenses.

Can You Get a Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Card After Getting a Gun License?

Since Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law does not include a specific provision to restrict gun licensees from obtaining medical marijuana cards, you may be able to obtain a Rhode Island medical marijuana card after getting a gun license. However, you risk being prosecuted under federal law if you are caught with an active Rhode Island medical marijuana registration and a gun license.

Legal History of Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in Rhode Island

Although a Rhode Island Superior Court judge dismissed marijuana cultivation and distribution and firearms possession charges against a registered medical marijuana patient in 2011, there has not been significant legislation to legalize gun possession for MMJ patients. The state continues to abide by federal regulations banning medical marijuana patients from possessing firearms.

What Federal Law Says About the Firearm Rights of Medical Marijuana Users

Although recent litigations are evolving the landscape for legal gun ownership for medical marijuana patients, there remains a firm restriction on possessing a gun license while being a medical marijuana user.

Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, it is unlawful for anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to a banned substance to possess a firearm. With marijuana listed as a Schedule I Controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, there are no concessions yielded under federal law for marijuana for medicinal purposes, even if medical marijuana is permitted under state law. Hence, possessing a medical marijuana card produces an inference that the cardholder is an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

Restricting medical marijuana patients from possessing and acquiring firearms has been challenged in several courts across the nation, with plaintiffs arguing that the Gun Control Act (GCA) infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana patients.

In one such case, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in the 2016 Wilson v. Lynch case that the GCA does not violate the Second Amendment rights of MMJ patients. Following that, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) in the United States Department of Justice modified Form 4473 to include the question of whether a gun buyer is an "unlawful" user of marijuana or an addicted user. Form 4473 is required for all prospective gun purchasers buying from federal firearm licensees. If a patient answers "yes," the licensed firearms seller cannot legally sell guns to the patient. If the patient responds "no," they risk being charged with perjury, which is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

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