The U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau, the same agency that lets drug cartel members buy guns, is warning firearms dealers not to sell to medical marijuana users.
In an open letter to the nation's licensed firearms sellers, the ATF reminds dealers that federal law prohibits any user of a controlled substance from possessing or buying guns. A standard form filled out by gun buyers asks if the buyer is a "user of" or "addicted" to any controlled substance -- checking "yes" effectively cancels the sale.
Federal law goes even further, states the letter by Arthur Herbert, ATF assistant director of enforcement programs and services, banning sales if the gun dealer merely has a "reasonable cause to believe" a buyer might be a pot user.
"Therefore, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user" and cannot own or buy firearms, Herbert writes.
It doesn't appear, however, that the ATF has the power to cross-check gun purchases with the state's list of marijuana card-holders, meaning that from a pot patient's point of view, the system is somewhat "on-your-honor." It doesn't seem likely that many card-holders would, as Herbert says, offer a state-issued medical-marijuana card as identification during a gun purchase.
While worrying about a few pot patients at gun stores, the ATF continues to battle bad PR stemming from the deadly "Operation Fast and Furious," in which the agency allowed suspected drug cartel affiliates to buy hundreds of guns from stores. The ATF was supposed to track the buyers, but didn't. And the bodies have piled up. Using the Fast and Furious guns, thugs killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and several other people in the United States and Mexico. Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who helped oversee the operation, lost his job over the screw-up. A federal investigation into the scandal is ongoing.
There are a couple of supreme ironies here. One is that if medical marijuana was legal nationwide, the cartels would see a massive drop in business -- and thus, the need to buy as many guns.
The other can be expressed in a simple question: Does it really make sense that there are hundreds of stores that sell guns in Phoenix, but none that sell marijuana?
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