April 19. 2024. 8:43

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US ban on marijuana users owning guns is unconstitutional, finds judge

A federal US law prohibiting marijuana users from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Oklahoma has concluded, citing last year’s US Supreme Court ruling that significantly expanded gun rights.

US District Judge Patrick Wyrick, an appointee of former Republican president Donald Trump in Oklahoma City, on Friday dismissed an indictment against a man charged in August with violating that ban, saying it infringed his right to bear arms under the US Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Judge Wyrick said that while the government can protect the public from dangerous people possessing guns, it could not argue that Jared Harrison’s “mere status as a user of marijuana justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm”.

He said using marijuana was “not in and of itself a violent, forceful, or threatening act”, and noted that Oklahoma is one of a number of states where the drug, still illegal under federal law, can be legally bought for medical uses.

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“The mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports,” Judge Wyrick wrote.

Laura Deskin, a public defender representing Mr Harrison, said the ruling was a “step in the right direction for a large number of Americans who deserve the right to bear arms and protect their homes just like any other American”. She called marijuana the most commonly used drug illegal at the federal level.

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The US Department of Justice did not respond to request for comment but is likely to appeal.

The decision marked the latest instance of a court declaring a gun regulation unconstitutional after the US Supreme Court’s six-three conservative majority in June ruled that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defence.

That ruling, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs Bruen, announced a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation”.

On Thursday, the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals cited that decision in declaring unconstitutional a federal law barring people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms. – Reuters