Chart of the Week: Court ruling on guns & MMJ could lead to millions in lost dispensary sales

By Eli McVey

Keep your medical marijuana card or surrender it to purchase a firearm.

This is the decision patients in western states may face after a recent court ruling upheld a federal ban on gun sales to registered MMJ users, which could result in millions of dollars in lost sales for dispensaries.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a Nevada woman’s Second Amendment rights were not violated by a federal law prohibiting gun sales to an “unlawful user of and/or an addict to marijuana.” This includes registered medical marijuana patients in states that have legalized MMJ.

The ruling covers nine western states, all but one of which has legalized medical marijuana.

In terms of overall dollars, Arizona has the potential to lose more MMJ sales than any other state affected by the ruling. If 10% of patients declined to renew their MMJ cards it would cost dispensaries an estimated $7.7 million – 3.4% of the $225 million in projected 2016 MMJ sales.

But in Nevada, the same 10% decline in patients choosing not to renew their MMJ card would amount to an overall loss of 6.3% of the state’s total projected $30 million in 2016 MMJ sales – nearly twice the net effect as in Arizona. This is driven primarily by Nevada’s higher rate of gun ownership, meaning that gun-owning MMJ patients make up a higher proportion of Nevada’s MMJ patient base, thus the larger impact to overall dispensary sales.

There’s a great deal of nuance in this case – the full text of which can be read here – but essentially the court found that possessing an MMJ card is enough to reasonably assume that an individual is using marijuana, and “that the use of marijuana raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

Therefore, the possession of an MMJ card provides proficient grounds by which federal firearm dealers can deny gun purchases.

The sale of firearms to marijuana users was already federally illegal, and to this point does not appear to have limited MMJ sales.

But Gary Smith, an attorney with Smith Paknejad PLC in Phoenix, Arizona, believes the court’s decision brings attention to an issue that many have been previously unaware of, causing the issue to loom larger in the public consciousness.

Furthermore, Smith suggests that risk-averse firearms dealers may choose to specifically point out to their customers that state-legal MMJ use is viewed as a federally illegal use of a controlled substance – denying sales out of a desire to stay fully compliant with federal law.

How the ruling will affect MMJ patients, and consequently the businesses that serve them, varies by state.

For the court’s decision to truly impact an MMJ patient desiring to legally purchase a gun from a federal firearms dealer, that person must live in a state with a patient registry. Of the nine states impacted by this ruling, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State have patient registries and already have (or in the case of Hawaii, will have) dispensaries.

In California, the registry is voluntary, however, and patients can still buy MMJ with a recommendation from a doctor if they don’t want to sign up for a card. Very few patients have joined the registry, so the impact will be minimal.

Washington State just recently established a mandatory registry for patients that want to buy medical cannabis without turning to the legal recreational market, but only 9,000 patients are registered for MMJ cards so far.

In Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Hawaii (where dispensary sales are expected in late 2016), however, the base of registered patients is fairly large. The impact of the gun law likely won’t be too severe in Oregon, as the state has a relatively low percentage of firearms owners in general.

To understand how an MMJ patient surrendering their card could affect dispensary sales, per-person medical marijuana spending data was taken from the What Cannabis Patients & Consumers Want research report by Marijuana Business Daily. This spending data was then combined with an estimate of the number of gun-owning MMJ patients in each state – calculated by multiplying the number of MMJ patients in each state by that states gun ownership rate.

While the gun ownership rate in each state may not apply directly to that state’s population of MMJ patients, it’s a sufficient starting point that’s rooted in empirical data.

These estimates do not account for the chilling effect the court’s ruling may have on potential new MMJ patients – deterring those still on the fence that want to maintain their right to legally purchase firearms.

But no matter how the dynamics of this case play out in the market, it’s a clear setback to MMJ advocates that have worked hard to remove the stigma associated with the use of medical marijuana.

Eli McVey can be reached at [email protected]

27 comments on “Chart of the Week: Court ruling on guns & MMJ could lead to millions in lost dispensary sales
  1. Gregory P. Miller on

    There are 3 guns available for every American Citizen right now. All this ruling says is that you can’t purchase a new gun, from a gun store, if you admit to having an MMJ card. Will this stop any MMJ card holder from legally obtaining a firearm? No. While inconvenient, it’s not the end of guns for anybody that wants guns, even if you medicate. If you just have to have another gun, there are plenty out there. If its your first time being a gun owner, and you are concerned about safety, ask yourself if it will make you more safe without a lot of training. I own a shotgun, two revolvers and two rifles. I am prohibited by law from bringing them to work at my medical concentrates laboratory, like it should be IMHO. I would prefer my customers, unarmed, like me.

    • Thomas Baltrusaitis on

      How can firearms dealers possess patient’s medical history? Are MMJ cardholders subject to different medical privacy laws than that of the rest of the public?

    • Joe Norml on

      Not every state allows private sales of firearms without a NICS check. Especially after all the “mass” shootings. In NY where I live if you buy a gun privately you have to go to a gun shop and have a NICS check done otherwise it is an illegally purchased gun which you can and will go to jail for.

  2. Hastings RH on

    Here in Cali it is a felony to release information or use against you the fact that you have a state medical card issued by the county. Very strong privacy rights were put in place to stop abusive treatment mostly by the few bad apple cops that give the 98 percent of the good cops a bad name -I know it’s a miracle that the gov actually got something something right for once..

  3. Colorado MMJ Patient on

    I have seen a couple of patients who did not renew their MMJ card because they wanted to get a concealed carry permit. However, that didn’t stop them from using cannabis, just stopped them from going to a stor to purchase. I guess this ruling could bolster the black market a bit more.

  4. Michelle DeMello on

    Your are correct sir, And I got to thinking as I read this article: What about all those people who are on all kinds of mind altering pills? Big Pharma has got to be behind this move. Medicated people with medical mJ are not angry hostile people! Anyone who knows or has done any research on mmj would know that it puts people at ease.
    To me this is another move to stop medical MJ. I do not think people should stand for this and allow our gov. once again to hold back this natural medicine from people who need this herbal therapy.

    • Jaime on

      Agreed. What if a MMJ card holder, married father of three, with a clean record/great all around citizen, has his house broken into at night and him and his entire family is summarily killed by a couple of well armed thugs? It’s later determined that this father was refused to purchase a rifle/gun for self-defense vs. that of a convicted multiple DUI offender w/alcohol or alcohol mixed w/prescription drugs, for instance, whom is allowed to keep his 14 guns? Isn’t such a person behind the wheel, an assault w/a deadly weapon waiting to happen? The judges on this case should be fired for mental incompetence/dereliction of duty/judicial malpractice…you name it. How can anyone take pride in that kind of work? There’s no kind of prescription med(s) that can cure that…

  5. Holy Smokes! on

    I would be very interested in knowing the stats the court basis the following quote: “that the use of marijuana raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

    • Jaime on

      9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: “that the use of marijuana raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.” REALLY????!!

      There couldn’t have been any verifiable evidence that in any way could have led the court to this decision. As others have mentioned, there are many, many people whom are on prescription meds. that can be and are often much more powerful and with a huge range of adverse side effects that have been clinically proven over time. The evidence is already out there. Right? Haven’t blood samples been taken from these people whom have been caught committing all of these irrational acts?? Really?… No one has been blood tested post “act” and found high levels of alcohol? High levels or even moderate levels of one or multiple prescription drugs? Perhaps combined with alcohol? When taken altogether, how many of these blood samples came back positive for cannabis in comparison to those caught with alcohol and/or prescription drugs in their systems?? This info has been around form decades. This court can’t be a real a court.

  6. Cheryl on

    By the courts’ reasoning, anyone who consumes alcohol should also be denied to purchase firearms. This should be easily overturned at a higher court.

  7. Marlene on

    This government is idiotic. Don’t let medical marijuana users buy a gun, but it’s ok for people to be on narcotics and drink alcohol. I do believe I’m from another planet and must be an intelligent being because these idiots that we have running our country including Judges are not intelligent. How is it ok for much worse things like narcotics and alcohol, yet talk about marijuana like it is dangerous in comparison. Beam me up Scotty. I’d had about enough with the idiots running this country. LOL

  8. Cactus Bill on

    I’m one of the “fence sitters”. Beyond this issue of firearms possession, there looms a MUCH larger problem. Excepting California (apparently), a state “registry” means that becomes Public Record. Which in turn mos’ def’ will pop out in a comprehensive personal background check. Which means that any entity that considers anyone for employment, extension of credit, real estate leasing, or even dating (!!) can pay $20 to know that you have a “card”.

  9. J. Martin on

    This is, in my opinion, a non-story. The ruling is not new, it’s being upheld, meaning business as usual, meaning no effect on sales.

  10. PissedOff on

    You’ll take neither my herb or my guns!! Same as it ever was, come get the guns if you feel so inspired. Remember I’m an irrational marijuana user so it might get ugly!! No one with a script for Ambien is subject to this BS yet they do things they can’t even recall like driving naked eating raw meat!! They are fine to have guns, right?

  11. George Buzzetti on

    Cheryl is on the MONEY, so to speak. Booze is the biggest killer so go for it. We need more deaths. Do not follow the 2003 DOJ Agreement with the LAPD on Internal Affairs. Just kill more and since weed makes you relax instead of going crazy we want the crazy one to work in Amerikkka or is it America? I got mixed up. OH, America with weed as this is for freedom and no more violence if you have to make a choice and the insane courts once again packed it for the privatizers and corporations and killing like normal. What else is new.

  12. John Verkitus on

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME ?? Then they also need to surrender their firearms if they Buy or DRINK Alcohol !

    Alcohol has 1000 times more potential for armed violence then Weed does, this is STUPID and Bull Shit!

    We need to STOP Nit Picking on the pot laws and just make it legal and regulate it like Alcohol..

    Stopping people who need it (weed) from getting it through a medical card is only going to drive those Sales Under Ground! Back to the Cartels and Dealers!!

    We have already established that pot smoking is the LEAST Dangerous out of Todays Choices of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes..

    So it needs to be treat accordingly..

    Lawmakers need to Embrace Pot not make more rules why you cant have it or cant own a firearm..

    There are thousands of Deaths caused by Drunks with guns every year! I am POSITIVE, Similar numbers related to POT would be in the SINGLE Digits !

    People who don’t see this, or choose to ignore it need to WAKE UP !

    Stop Blaming Pot for People who can’t control themselves..



  13. Thomas Workman on

    Come on people, have we all lost our collective minds? Ammendment #2… A well regulated militia, Being necessary to maintain security of a free state, the peoples right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That should be clear enough even for the ninth circus of appeals to understand. Plus a state registry of mmj patients is to be kept confidential. No one has the right to just browse your medical records, are you kidding, only your doctor may access these records. This court ruling is ridiculous on so many levels. Don’t forget the fact that firearms registration is not a power delegated to the U.S. government. The Fed cannot restrict your natural born right to posess a gun. They are not allowed to limit our ability to defend ourselves. Does not matter if you’re a psychopath, bi polar, adhd, downs syndrome, a felon… NONE of these disqualifies us from owning weapons of self defense. I could go on and on, the ruling breaks at least four amendments in the bill of rights. We The People, created the United States government. Since when does the entity we created have the power to rule over It’s creator. The Federal government cannot exist without our consent! We don’t take orders from them, We created them and their entire organization. Time to WAKE UP folks!!

  14. Tony Stark on

    C’mon people! This is yet another part of “Death by a thousand pecks” tactic.
    They have been attacking constitutional and natural rights of the people for ages now and methodically chipping them away. Technically, the gov. should not even be allowed to collect ANY tax monies from the industry as cannabis is still considered an ‘illegal schedule one drug’. They are demanding (and receiving) tax money from a crime! And yet… we allow them to do it.

    Where are all you tough guy lawyers? Apparently there are none left with both testosterone AND brains. It will take both of these qualities to succeed.
    Here’s yet another example for you in regards to the hypocrisy of the govt. –
    The U.S. Government (and others) have multiple letters patent on the medical properties of cannabis, yet it is listed as a Schedule One drug with “no medical value and highly addictive”. Those issued patents demonstrate and clearly prove the ‘medical benefits’ of cannabis, do they not? If they do not, then the patents should never have issued in the first place!
    Which brings me to my next point.
    And that is also very true according to the U.S.P.T.O. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). According to the U.S.P.T.O you CANNOT patent “anything illegal or considered inherently dangerous”. Well, a Schedule One listed drug is considered both Illegal & dangerous, is it not?

    It’s way past time to call out the lying hypocrites. How MANY more lies do we have to have stuffed down our throats before you take action by calling out the gov? Don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready NOW! These lies (and the rest) need to end NOW!

  15. Tom Beveridge on

    This decision is misleading. If you are a MMJ card holder, you are considered a prohibited person and can NOT even OWN a firearm. The court didn’t understand the federal preemption extends beyond just purchase to actual possession.

  16. Shotgun Smoker on

    That’s not a gun man, it’s my smoking device! My Gun Bong. My sister bought it and gifted it to me- legal in almost any state to do this without registration -unless Hillary is elected of course.

  17. Bob on

    And yet a alcoholic can purchase a gun with no issues at all. The government is after your guns and having people register for medical mj is one way to keep people from buying guns. I don’t think the laws are just to begin with about cannabis. The law allows people with perscriptions to buy firearms. These laws are going to be overturned eventually because some politicians kid will be a registered mj user and will want to buy guns to protect his family and the laws will change. Just like every other law, when it negatively impacts the law makers own family the laws change. It’s BS and cannabis should be legalized. It has been doing good things for the states that have legalized it and it’s time for the cannabis industry to get moving so jobs can be created and America can stand tall and proud once again. Our politicians are bringing us down and it’s time for that to stop.

  18. Joe Norml on

    If MMJ users are going to be prohibited from legally purchasing a gun, then EVERY patient on ANY type of drug that can affect you psychologically should be prohibited. The vast majority of “mass shooters” have ALL been on some type of SSrI. (Select Serotonin re-uptake Inhibitor) People who are trying to quite smoking using Chantix or Fibromyalsia or even arthritis sufferers who take medications that can cause you to have suicidal thoughts or actions should be prohibited. The gooberment is trying to stop people from having guns but since they know they can’t out right ban all guns they’re going to do EVERYTHING they can to make it impossible for anyone to own one. The more corporate statutes they impose on us the more we need to ignore them and only follow the laws of the Constitution, even though many are contradictory to themselves. WE are NOT corporations we are THE PEOPLE.

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