Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is pointing to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to support her challenge to federal regulations that make it illegal for medical-marijuana patients to buy guns.
Fried, a Democrat running for governor, has long championed medical marijuana. Florida voters broadly legalized medicinal Cannabis in 2016. Her office also is in charge of issuing concealed-weapons licenses, reports the News Service of Florida.
In April, Fried filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice that challenges a federal law. Her lawsuit alleges regulations “forbid Floridians from possessing or purchasing a firearm on the sole basis that they are state-law-abiding medical marijuana patients.”
Fried’s lawyers on Friday filed an amended complaint. A Supreme Court ruling struck down a New York law placing strict limits on carrying concealed weapons in public.
Gun-control advocates have expressed concerns the decision could severely restrict states’ ability to regulate guns.
The court’s June 23 ruling said gun laws have to align with the country’s “historical tradition” of firearm regulations.
“No Rational Explanation”
Fried’s lawsuit includes plaintiffs who are medical Cannabis patients and want to have guns. It also includes a plaintiff who is a gun owner and wants to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.
It contends that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
“The defendants can offer no rational explanation for why federal law would … essentially turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals with no self-control,” the lawsuit states. “Such a contradictory position would fall far outside of any comparable, historical regulation in this area.”
Lawsuit Centers On Federal Gun Purchase Form
A federal form for people seeking to purchase guns is the focus of Fried’s lawsuit.
Fried’s attorneys argue that prohibiting people who use medical marijuana from buying or having guns is a relatively recent development.
“No Historical Tradition”
“Quite simply, there is no historical tradition of denying individuals their Second Amendment rights based solely (or even partially) on the use of marijuana,” the lawsuit said.
“None of the federal case law relating to whether marijuana users may be stripped of their Second Amendment rights applies to the historical analysis that Bruen (the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the New York case) requires,” the plaintiffs argued.
Fried’s lawsuit also pointed to a federal law known as the Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment. It bars DOJ from using any funds to prevent states “from implementing state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Previous decisions found the law prohibits federal officials from spending money to prosecute people who engage in conduct permitted by state medical-marijuana laws, Fried’s lawyers wrote.
The lawsuit accuses the Biden administration of defying the law.
Lawsuit Puts The Onus On DOJ
In a motion filed the day the New York gun ruling was issued, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s lawyers said the Biden administration intended to file a motion to have the Florida lawsuit dismissed. The June 23 motion also asked for more time to respond to the legal challenge “so that defendants can review Bruen, analyze its relevance to this case, and apply Bruen in its forthcoming motion to dismiss.”
Will Hall, an attorney with the Dean, Mead & Dunbar firm who represents the plaintiffs, told The News Service of Florida that the Supreme Court ruling puts the onus on the DOJ to justify the gun restriction.
“We Just Don’t See It”
“Our reading of the case is the federal government has to show that this regulation, which is basically treating medical marijuana patients as if they are just, per se, too violent to possess guns, has some kind of historical tradition, and we just don’t see it,” Hall said Tuesday.
Hall said Fried’s legal team scoured the issue to see if there was “any equivalent regulation” in the distant past.
“We just can’t find it,” he said. “There’s really no equivalent for what we have in medical marijuana now, which is that the states have made it legal and the federal government has, not just through a letter or some promise but through law, said we will protect those programs from interference.”
Florida’s Lone Statewide Elected Democrat
Fried, a lawyer, is Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat.
She is a “huge advocate” for “reasonable gun laws that make people safer,” Hall noted.
“Her view is that this regulation just doesn’t make anyone more safe,” Hall said. “If anything, it makes people less safe because it pushes them towards, if you’re a medical marijuana patient who wants to buy a gun, pushes you to a private sale versus a gun store where you actually follow the ATF protocols.”