Apr 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Top Florida Democrat suing Biden admin over ban on medical marijuana users buying guns

Picture of Nikki Fried

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Nikki Fried, Florida's commissioner of agriculture and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, plans to sue the Biden administration over a federal rule that bans medical marijuana users from purchasing or owning guns, according to a pre-filing final draft of the lawsuit shared with Axios.

Driving the news: In the lawsuit, Fried's attorneys call the rule "irrational, inconsistent, and incoherent," adding that it prevents her from "ensuring that Floridians receive the state rights relating to them."

  • Fried is joined in the lawsuit by three people: Two medical marijuana patients and a person who refuses to participate in Florida's medical marijuana program "on the sole basis that they are unwilling to concede their Second Amendment rights."
  • The lawsuit names Attorney General Merrick Garland and Marvin Richardson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as defendants.
  • NBC News first reported Fried's lawsuit.

State of play: While marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, it is legal in Florida for medical use.

Details: Medical marijuana patients "may legally participate in Florida’s medical marijuana program in accordance with the Florida Constitution and state statute. However, solely due to this state-legal use of medical marijuana, [the Biden administration deems] them too dangerous to exercise their Second Amendment rights."

  • The lawsuit says the federal regulation it is challenging is "unconstitutional" and violates and imposes "an impermissible burden upon the Second Amendment rights of state-law-abiding Florida medical marijuana patients."
  • Additionally, it alleges that the rule goes against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a law that prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis law.

Worth noting: The lawsuit says that the Biden administration has "a significant, substantial, and important objective in trying to keep firearms off the hands of those who are too dangerous or violent to use them safely."

  • However, it adds that the administration "cannot reasonably show that ... patients are inherently more dangerous due solely to their state-law-abiding use of medial marijuana."

What she's saying: "I’m suing the Biden Administration because people’s rights are being limited. Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal," Fried said in a tweet.

  • "This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both."

An ATF spokesperson told Axios that the agency "can’t speculate on possible litigation or discuss any pending litigation," but added that the federal rule "applies regardless of whether the person’s state has passed legislation purporting to authorize marijuana use for any purpose (including medicinal purposes)."

  • "Therefore, any person that uses marijuana remains prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law."

The Justice Department declined to comment on the matter.

Zoom out: Earlier this month, the House passed a bill to decriminalize cannabis on the federal level.

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week the legislation would be introduced in the Senate likely in August.

What's next: The lawsuit is set to be officially filed later on Wednesday.

Read the lawsuit:

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