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ATF really wants to prevent marijuana users from buying a gun in Michigan

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On the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, and it's a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison to smoke pot and buy or own a gun. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • On the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, and it's a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison to smoke pot and buy or own a gun.

Michigan gun dealers are now required to conduct federal background checks on all unlicensed firearm buyers to prevent “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified residents from obtaining guns.

Although Michigan residents legalized marijuana in November 2018, pot is still illegal on the federal level. It’s a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison to smoke pot and buy or own a gun.



The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a new advisory to Michigan gun dealers this week, saying they are now prohibited from accepting a state concealed pistol license in lieu of a federal background check. Under the former policy, some disqualified residents were still able to buy a gun.

According to the advisory, some gun dealers were issuing concealed pistol licenses to people “without a determination by Michigan officials as to whether the applicant is prohibited under Federal law from possessing or transporting firearms.”



“Specifically, ATF learned that CPLs were and continue to be issued to applicants who were likely prohibited due to a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence… and to habitual marijuana users,” the advisory says. “Although possession and use of marijuana is not unlawful under Michigan law, marijuana remains a ‘controlled substance’ under Federal law, and those using marijuana are prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm.”

In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District upheld the federal government's ban on gun sales to marijuana users.

Already this year, the ATF has arrested at least one Detroiter for possessing a gun while being a marijuana user. On Feb. 6, a federal grand jury indicted Mytez Powell, of Detroit, on a felony count of unlawful use of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm. Powell, who faces up to a decade in prison, was arrested after posting videos and photos on Instagram and Facebook that showed him smoking a blunt, and on different occasions, holding a pistol. An ATF agent took action after Detroit police spotted a 9mm pistol in the backseat of a car in which Powell was a passenger. In one video, Powell is brandishing a pistol "with what appears to be a blunt wrapper and marijuana on a license plate which reads "HIGH AF," court records indicate.

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit, says the law applies to people who are regular users of any controlled substance, including marijuana.

"A one-time use of a controlled substance is not sufficient to be an unlawful user under the applicable statute," Balaya tells Metro Times. "Rather, the Defendant must have been engaged in the regular use of a controlled substance either close in time to or contemporaneous with the period of time he possessed the firearm. The law does not require that the Defendant used the controlled substance at the precise time he possessed the firearm. An inference that Defendant was an unlawful user of a controlled substance may be drawn from evidence of a pattern of use or pattern of possession of a controlled substance that reasonably covers the time a firearm was possessed."

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