A U.S. appeals court in San Francisco Wednesday upheld a federal policy that bans gun sales to people who use medical marijuana or possess
medical marijuana registration cards.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the policy doesn't violate the constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The court ruled in the case of a Nevada woman, S. Rowan Wilson, who held a card authorizing her to use medical marijuana under state law.
A gunshop owner in the community of Mound House, near Carson City, refused to sell her a gun on Oct. 4, 2011, because she possessed the
Two weeks earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives announced a policy that people with medical marijuana cards
can be assumed to be unlawful users of an illegal drug and that gun dealers should therefore not sell them guns.
The policy was established as part of the implementation of a 1968 law in which Congress banned gun sales to people who use or are addicted to prohibited drugs. The ATF policy said there is "reasonable cause to believe"
that people with medical marijuana cards use the substance.
Marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, although 25 states, including Nevada and California, have passed laws protecting medical
marijuana users from state prosecution.
The appeals court said Congress reached "a reasonable conclusion" in determining there is a link between drug use and violence, and that ATF regulators in turn were reasonable in assuming that a cardholder is more likely to use marijuana than a person who does not have a card.
"It is beyond dispute that illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior," Judge Jed Rakoff wrote for the court.
Rakoff, a federal trial judge from New York, was temporarily assigned to the appeals court.
The panel said the policy didn't severely burden Wilson's Second Amendment right because she could have obtained guns before receiving her medical marijuana card or could give up her card.
The decision, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court, applies in the nine western states, including California, in the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit.