Medical Cannabidiol and Firearms

Under Iowa Code chapter 124E, Iowa residents, who submit written certification by a heath care practitioner that they are suffering from a certain debilitating medical condition, can apply to the Department of Public Health for a medical cannabidiol registration card.  This card enables Iowans access to concentrated extracts of marijuana containing both THC and CBD to treat their health condition.

Although the use of marijuana extracts for medical purposes is sanctioned under Iowa law, both marijuana and THC remain Schedule I controlled substances under federal law.

This poses a real problem for those card holders who wish to simultaneously exercise their right to possess a firearm under the Second Amendment and Iowa Code chapter 724.

Any person who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).  Furthermore, under 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(3), federal law makes it unlawful for any person to sell a firearm to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.”  As provided in 27 C.F.R. § 478.11, the Code of Federal Regulations permit that “an inference of current use may be drawn from evidence of a recent use or possession of a controlled substance or a pattern of use or possession that reasonably covers the present time.”

As a result, an Iowa card holder will be considered an unlawful user of a federally scheduled controlled substance by the ATF.  They must answer YES to question 11.e on ATF Form 4473, the Firearm Transaction Record, which will prohibit them from receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.  If a firearm dealer is aware that a potential transferee is in possession of an Iowa Medical Cannabidiol card, then the dealer has “reasonable cause to believe” that the person is an unlawful user.  The dealer cannot transfer firearms or ammunition to that person even if the person answered NO to question 11.e on ATF Form 4473.  The warning on the form is very clear: “[T]he use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law, regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

Until this conflict is resolved, card holders must be aware that untruthful answers to question 11.e can subject them to federal criminal penalties, including perjury and illegal firearm possession.