Marijuana and Guns: How will Ohio Issue 2 affect your gun rights?
On November 7, 2023, Ohioans will be asked to vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The measure will appear on the ballot as an initiated statute called Issue 2. If it passes, it will change Ohio law to allow those 21 or older to buy, sell, use, or grow marijuana under a set of rules outlined in the new law.
Because marijuana use disqualifies you from buying or possessing a firearm, the question is this: Will passage of Issue 2 affect your gun rights?
The short answer is "no." Nothing will change.
In 2016, when Ohio made medical marijuana legal, we warned you that regardless of the new state law, marijuana would remain illegal at the federal level and would continue to disqualify users from possessing firearms or ammunition.
The same will be true this time around if voters legalize marijuana for recreational use. If you use marijuana, you lose your gun rights regardless of state law.
Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), prohibits any person who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)" from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.
So no matter what the state does regarding marijuana, federal law will continue to list marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. That means marijuana users cannot possess firearms or ammunition legally.
You should be particularly mindful of this when purchasing firearms and filling out ATF Form 4473, used to conduct a background check. The form asks:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
You may think that if Ohio has made marijuana legal, you can answer "no." However, note the warning on the form:
Warning: The 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.
If you provide false information on this form, you expose yourself to felony charges under federal law, punishable with prison time and/or a hefty fine. And this may result in loss of gun rights forever.
BFA believes that marijuana use should not disqualify you from legally possessing firearms. However, we are obligated to inform you of current law. No matter how you or I may feel about it, Ohio cannot nullify federal law. Even if recreational marijuana is legalized in November at the state level, federal law will remain.
Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, former #1 NRA Recruiter, and host of the Keep and Bear Radio podcast.