Firearms and Marijuana in Las Vegas Don’t Mix Well — in More Ways Than One

Now that recreational marijuana purchase and use is legal in Nevada, anyone who owns, carries, or wants to purchase a firearm needs to be aware of gun laws that apply to individuals who use marijuana in Las Vegas or elsewhere in the state. There are three (3) different ways you can run into problems with firearms when you use marijuana:

  • Gun possession
  • CCW permit eligibility
  • Gun purchase

Marijuana Use and Firearm Possession

In Nevada, physical possession of a gun while under the influence of a controlled substance — which includes marijuana — is a criminal offense. In other words: Don’t carry your gun when you’re high.

In addition, if you carry a gun while you’re high and you brandish, aim, or handle the gun in a way that endangers other people, law enforcement can seize the gun under Nevada law. That conviction likely would bar you from purchasing a firearm in the future.

Finally, federal law makes it a felony for an “unlawful user of … any controlled substance” to “possess … any firearm.” Since marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, it is a felony under federal law for a user of marijuana to possess a firearm.

Buying Firearms for Marijuana Users

Even before marijuana was legalized for recreational use, medical marijuana card holders could not purchase guns. Now the same rule applies to people who habitually use pot for recreation.

Gun purchases are subject to federal laws that are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is part of the United States Justice Department. Possession and use of marijuana still is a federal criminal offense, even though Nevada and other states have passed laws permitting or decriminalizing purchase and use.

Since states have been legalizing marijuana, ATF Form 4473, which must be completed for a gun purchase, has been amended to ask: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” The question is asked in the disjunctive, so addiction or habitual use of lawful marijuana means the question should be answered affirmatively.

The form goes on to state that an affirmative answer to the question bars purchase of a firearm. You might think that a recreational marijuana user could simply answer “no,” and get away with it if the person has no drug convictions on record. The problem is that making a false statement on the application is a federal felony criminal offense, punishable by up to five (5) years in federal prison.

The change to Form 4473 does not represent a shift in ATF’s position: on September 21, 2011, ATF issued an Open Letter stating “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

If you’re thinking you’ll just have someone else buy a gun for you: Think again. Law enforcement terms this action a “straw purchase.” Having someone else buy you a gun is also a federal felony criminal offense, punishable by a significant fine and prison time. Straw purchases are illegal.

CCW Permits and Marijuana Use

In Nevada, medical marijuana card holders cannot get a CCW (Carrying a Concealed Weapon) permit. State law also prohibits anyone who has been convicted of DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) or committed for treatment for substance abuse within the last five (5) years from getting a CCW permit.

The Nevada CCW permit law states that habitual users of controlled substances cannot obtain CCW permits. While marijuana is now legal in Nevada, it is still illegal under federal law and considered to be a controlled substance. So, if you habitually use recreational marijuana, you will be unable to get a CCW permit in Las Vegas, even without a conviction for DUID or treatment for substance abuse.

Talk With a Las Vegas Attorney About Marijuana and Firearms Charges

The Gersten Law Firm helps Nevada residents and visitors who are facing criminal charges. The firm has substantial experience defending federal and state drug charges and firearm violations. If you are arrested on marijuana or firearm charges, you want a skillful, knowledgeable attorney on your side. A conviction on your record can significantly impact your life.

Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten has extensive experience defending Las Vegas visitors and residents facing federal and state criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested in Las Vegas or anywhere else in Clark County, contact Attorney Gersten to schedule a free consultation.