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States Legalize Marijuana, Clash with Federal Government

In 1996, California became the first state to pass legislation permitting certain use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Colorado was not far behind, adopting its own medical marijuana laws in 2000. In the last two decades, many other states have either enacted similar laws or considered doing so.

State Authorization, Federal Criminalization

Despite this trend, patients with state-issued medical marijuana cards must know that federal law has not changed; the federal government classifies marijuana use, possession, distribution, or cultivation as a Schedule I federal drug crime.

According to federal law, this classification means the government has concluded:

  • Marijuana has a high potential for abuse.
  • Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.
  • Marijuana lacks an accepted level of safety for use under medical supervision.

Card-Carrying Patients Denied Firearms

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana violates federal law, so they cannot lawfully possess firearms. The fact that states like Colorado authorize marijuana possession and use for medicinal purposes has no effect: The federal government does not recognize marijuana as a medicine. Violating this particular ban on weapon use or possession can result in a fine, a maximum of 5 years in prison, or both. Other federal firearms offenses carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

When completing forms for firearm background checks, transactions, and concealed handgun permits, you must check a box asking whether you use drugs. According to Denver Westword, this forces card-carrying medical marijuana patients to check yes, resulting in denial of their application, or to lie and risk federal prosecution.

Other Colorado Gun Laws Apply

Under Colorado law, you are allowed to carry a firearm in a vehicle if its use is for lawful protection of person or property of yourself or another person. The law also allows possession of a handgun in a dwelling or place of business, but unless you obtain a permit through the Sheriff's Department, you cannot carry a concealed weapon while transporting it into your home, business, or hotel room. Whether you have been charged with violating drug laws, weapons laws or both, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will determine legal defenses available to you and advocate on your behalf during criminal proceedings.

Schedule your free consultation today. You can contact my firm at (303) 622-3281.

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