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On marijuana users’ right to bear arms: Where’s the NRA when you need them?

Cannabist op-ed: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' recent ruling is a slap in the face, but the NRA has been screwing marijuana patients for decades

The National Rifle Association bills itself as “proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the Second Amendment.” But while the NRA staunchly opposes gun sale restrictions on would-be pistol packers on the government’s “no-fly” list, the lobbying organization is OK with banning state-legal medical cannabis patients from purchasing firearms without due process.

What the hell, NRA? Where you been all these years?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a federal ban on gun sales to medical cannabis patients does not violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court’s decision affects cannabis consumers in nine western states and two U.S. territories.

The ruling applies equally to lawful medical and recreational cannabis users, who are specifically asked about marijuana use on the federal firearms form. Federal data from 2012 estimates roughly 1.2 million law-abiding marijuana users in the three recreational cannabis states — Washington, Oregon and Alaska — and Marijuana Policy Project estimates another 840,000 pot patients in California, Arizona, Montana and Nevada. That’s around 2 million legal cannabis consumers banned from buying guns, not including the toking tourists.

Now is the time for the NRA to come out of the cannabis closet and support the Second Amendment rights of state-legal tokers. Such a shift can even play into the NRA’s anti-liberal rhetoric and fearmongering. The 9th Circuit is viewed by many as the most liberal in the country. Labeled anti-American by hyperbole-prone politicians, many conservatives view the Ninth as a hotbed of godless, “activist judges.” That same court just upheld a ban on licensed gun dealers selling firearms to a few million Americans, most of whom have not been convicted of or even charged with a crime.

And if the NRA needs more political cover than that, just tell people to consider it more evidence that Obama is trying to take away our guns.

Because no matter how much weed Barry Obama chiefed in his Choom Gang salad days, the federal government still officially hates cannabis, maintaining prohibitionist pot policies consistent with the Anslinger-fueled anti-marijuana rhetoric of the 1930s. In the rifle realm, that’s largely because the federal law banning gun sales to potheads hasn’t been seriously reconsidered in the last two decades, since California and twenty-plus other states legalized medical cannabis.

The NRA can change that. The massively influential lobbying group supported the 1968 Gun Control Act that banned firearm sales to “marihuana” and other drug users, and the organization is uniquely poised to help undo the pot-gun ban. The group could throw its lobbying might behind a legislative fix to the ’68 law or lend its legal acumen to a Supreme Court challenge.

The NRA can certainly change course swiftly. After the right-wing takeover of the nonpartisan group in 1977, the NRA quickly reinvented itself as a highly-charged, overtly-political lobbying machine that primarily supports Republicans and the conservative agenda. Yet in nearly a half-century, NRA leadership has not changed position that the Second Amendment does not apply to cannabis consumers.

On this gun issue, the permanently-stoned probably-pacifists over at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws support Second Amendment gun ownership rights more diligently than the conservative culture warriors leading the National Rifle Assocation.

In an era dominated by increasingly-divisive politics fueled by media deregulation, the NRA plays a crucial role in boosting gun industry profits by convincing gun-loving Americans that liberals want to ban gun ownership, by defunding science research and by reinterpreting 200-plus years of Constitutional law while maintaining a quid-pro-quo relationship with firearms manufacturers.

Yet despite the partisan fearmongering, the NRA is still underpinned by a large membership base that believes in due process and a fundamental right to bear arms.

It’s time for the NRA’s true believers to stand with vulnerable medical cannabis patients — patriots frequently at higher risk of crime because crooks know they can’t legally buy firearms for self-defense. Diligent protectors of the Second Amendment support gun ownership equal rights for state-legal cannabis consumers. Or don’t they?

The National Rifle Association must end its hypocritical half-century of support for excluding potheads from their Constitutional purview. The NRA’s shameful silence on this issue equals support for one of the largest federal gun grabs ever. The political winds have shifted and pot is prevailing; the NRA should get on the right side of cannabis history with all alacrity.