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Lawsuit raises questions about medical marijuana appearing on gun background checks

September 4, 2016

Questions have emerged after a Nevada woman lost her case in a federal court on Wednesday. S. Rowan Wilson filed a lawsuit after trying to buy a firearm in 2011 and being denied because she was a medical marijuana patient.

The court ruled against Wilson, saying a ban on gun sales to medical marijuana cardholders does not violate the second amendment."Firearms are a federally controlled substance. A lot of people don't recognize that, but they are." Will Adler is the Executive Director of the Nevada Medical Marijuana Association. He said although medical marijuana is legal in the Silver State, it is still illegal under federal law.

Adler said, "it's just showing marijuana's illicit nature on a federal level. If you're a Schedule I drug, you're thought of as not having any medical benefit, although we know it clearly does. We have a medical marijuana program that shows that. So it's another conflict between state and federal law."

In this case, Adler said the law discriminates against patients in Nevada. "She wants the right to protect herself and she shouldn't have to lose that just because she also wants the ability to medicate properly with medical marijuana instead of turning to opioids and alcohol, which are far more dangerous."

The lawsuit raises the question: how can gun dealers verify that someone is a medical marijuana patient.

Maccabee Arms owner, Sharon Oren said, "I need to follow the guidelines of the ATF and the 4473 form."

One section of that form asks, 'Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?'

Oren said, "if you have a marijuana card, for the federal government you're still an unlawful user. The federal government does not recognize the state's right to issue those cards."

If medical marijuana patients lie on the 4473 form, they commit perjury. Will Adler said, "in a state like Nevada where you go through a registry and you get a DMV card, it's a very official process. That's why a lot of people feel at risk if they did say no and they are part of the Nevada medical marijuana system, because it could show up on a background check they feel."

News 4 asked a representative from the state office for the Nevada Medical Marijuana Program if being a marijuana cardholder would show up on a background check. She said she could see "no reason" why it would.

The representative, who did not want to disclose her name, also noted that it's even difficult for law enforcement officers to access information in Nevada's medical marijuana registry. She said officers must have a patient's ID number to verify their prescription.

Even if a person lied about their marijuana use on the 4473 form, gun store owner Sharon Oren said they likely wouldn't be caught. He said, "I will dare you to try and do a little research and see how many people have actually been indicted or prosecuted in the state of Nevada... The system doesn't work. The laws are there. It's not being enforced."

Wednesday's court ruling affects states across the West Coast, including California, Oregon, Washington, and of course, Nevada.

Unlike Nevada, California does not require its medical marijuana cardholders to register with the state, so it's likely a marijuana prescription would not show up on a background check there either.

News 4 reached out to S. Rowan Wilson for comment on the federal court case. She did not respond on Thursday.