There are now eight states that have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, along with twenty eight states that have legalized medical marijuana. Washington D.C. has legalized both recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana reform is spreading across America like wildfire, with well over thirty million Americans admitting to using marijuana (13% according to Gallup). But despite marijuana being essentially mainstream at this point, there is still a lot of discrimination that marijuana consumers have to deal with, even in legal states.
Marijuana consumers can still be fired from their jobs, and can still be denied housing because of their marijuana use. Marijuana users are actually prohibited by the federal government from purchasing firearms. When someone tries to purchase a gun, they are asked about their marijuana use. If they answer that they use marijuana, they are not allowed to make the purchase, a fact that a politician in Alaska recently learned about. Per the Wall Street Journal:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s husband and sons ordered her a new Benelli 12-gauge shotgun as a gift, but when the Alaska Republican—and enthusiastic duck hunter—went to pick it up, she was puzzled by a question on the federal background form she had to fill out.
The form asked if she used marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, both of which are legal in Alaska. If she answered yes, she would be unable to get the gun, because federal law prohibits anyone who uses illegal drugs from buying a firearm.
The senator doesn’t use pot, but she was taken aback by the notion that an activity that is legal in her state could block gun ownership. “I don’t like marijuana—I voted against legalization—but we passed it,” Ms. Murkowski said in an interview. “Now, you’ve got this conflict.”
This type of discrimination is not new. Not only are marijuana users discriminated against when they try to make firearm purchases, but they are also prevented from receiving concealed carry permits in most areas. My home state, Oregon, saw an Oregon Supreme Court ruling handed down in 2012 which made it illegal to deny a medical marijuana patient a concealed carry permit. However, since the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, the case law is only binding at the state level in Oregon.
This is a prime example of how the fight to reform marijuana laws does not stop once voters approve a recreational or medical marijuana initiative. There is still a ton of work to be done. Until marijuana consumers are treated the same as consumers of other products, the battle wages on. I am not a gun owner, but I respect the fact that a lot of other marijuana consumers are, and they should be able to make gun purchases the same as anyone else, regardless of their marijuana use.