As one of Florida’s largest networks of medical marijuana doctors, CannaMD constantly meets patients concerned about the state and federal conflict regarding medical marijuana – and what this conflict means when it comes to purchasing firearms and applying for a concealed weapons permit.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nicole “Nikki” Fried, oversees the state department tasked with issuing concealed weapons permits. In an exclusive interview, Fried spoke with CannaMD to clear up common misconceptions and outline everything Florida patients need to know about carrying concealed weapons and purchasing firearms as a medical marijuana cardholder.
In Florida, purchasing a firearm and applying for a concealed weapons permit are two separate things.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement:
Florida does not require a permit to purchase a firearm nor is there a permit that exempts any person from the background check requirement.
This means that individuals who meet the state’s requirements may purchase a firearm without a permit; however, they must pass a federal background check first. This background check is part of the individual’s Firearms Transaction Record (ATF).
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does not oversee or regulate gun purchases or ownership in any capacity.
Importantly, while medical marijuana is legal in Florida, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance on a federal level.
So what does this mean for medical marijuana patients?
Medical Marijuana & Concealed Weapons
Shortly before taking office in 2019, Fried stated:
I have both [a concealed weapons permit and medical marijuana card]. So I want to make that very clear, that I will not be taking anybody’s concealed weapons permit or not renewing them. I see no conflict between the two.
When asked if that sentiment still holds true, Fried replied:
My position is still the same. I still have both. They actually sit next to each other in my wallet.
Digging deeper into the process, Fried addresses specific application questions that have caused confusion in the past. For instance, Question 14A asks:
During the three years preceding the date of this application, have you been committed for the abuse of controlled substances, or been found guilty or convicted of a crime under the provisions of Chapter 893, Florida Statutes, or similar laws of any other state, or had multiple arrests for such offenses within the past five years with the most recent arrest occurring within the past year?
According to Fried, “committed” should be interpreted as “convicted” – meaning that if you have never been convicted of a controlled substance-related criminal charge, individuals should answer “no” to this question (regardless of their medical marijuana patient status).
The same logic applies to Question 14B, which asks:
During the three years preceding the date of this application, have you been committed for the abuse of alcoholic beverages or other substances under the provisions of Chapter 397, or under the provisions of former Chapter 396, Florida Statutes, or convicted under Section 790.151, Florida Statutes, or been deemed a habitual offender under the provisions of Section 856.011(3), Florida Statutes, or similar laws of any other state?
To make sure no stone was left unturned, CannaMD also asked about Florida Statutes: Section 790.06 itself, which governs the right to carry concealed weapons and firearms in Florida.
As outlined by this legislation:
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall issue a license if the applicant […] does not chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages or other substances to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired.
When asked if this clause poses any problems for patients – and if the state defines medical marijuana patients as “habitual substance users” – Fried replied:
We don’t see any concerns. Just like if you’re taking any other medicine, if you’re taking [cannabis] for medical purposes and you have your medical marijuana card, then there’s no issue.
Translation? Having your medical marijuana card will not prevent you from getting your concealed weapons permit. Fried also confirmed that becoming a medical marijuana patient after receiving a concealed weapons permit will not lead to the permit being revoked.
However, purchasing firearms is another issue.
Medical Marijuana & Purchasing Firearms
As Fried explains:
I think the biggest confusion that most people have is obviously I do not control the ATF form and I don’t control the federal laws on this. So the federal stuff is still a problem. You’ve got an issue when it comes to federal law, but when it comes to our state’s laws regarding the concealed weapons permit, there are no issues.
Those federal issues are highlighted by Question 11E on the ATF. When purchasing firearms, Florida patients must truthfully answer:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
And for those hoping for state protection for medical use, the form continues:
Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.
When asked if this means that patients could be approved for their concealed weapons permit, but unable to actually purchase a firearm and then use their permit, Fried replied:
Unfortunately, I think that is a correct statement. I have the same issue. I have both my cards, and I feel like today I cannot purchase a firearm because of it.
A trickier question faces patients who already own firearms prior to becoming a medical marijuana patient. What happens then?
According to Fried:
There’s a gray area. Some will argue – and I would certainly advise people to talk to their attorneys on this – but some will argue that it talks about not just purchasing, but when you look at some of the other laws they say ‘possession’ of firearms, and then it’s up to enforcement. So it’s a gray area that’s certainly not verified. But it’s very clear about the purchasing of the gun.
When asked if she foresees any changes in the future regarding the firearm purchasing process, Fried stated:
I have not seen any legislation or anything on the federal level that has addressed this issue, but it’s definitely a concern we’ll be digging into.
In sum, medical marijuana patients must answer “yes” to ATF Question 11E – which will likely prevent approval for purchasing firearms; however, if patients already own firearms prior to receiving their medical marijuana card, the law is less defined. Florida medical marijuana patients are encouraged to seek legal counsel on this issue.
Summarizing both processes, Fried stresses:
The biggest thing for medical marijuana patients to understand is the differences between what’s happening on the federal level and what’s happening on the state level. You’re in good standing on the state level when it comes to your concealed weapons permit application and hold; it’s the federal issue that’s the problem.
However, Fried remains optimistic:
We’ll continue to fight. Because I’ve seen the benefits [of medical marijuana] every single day. And when our legislature tries to scale back the program or be more restrictive, we should be doing just the opposite.
When asked why she’s such a passionate advocate for medical marijuana patients, Fried responds candidly:
Where do I start! I can begin with every story that I hear, from that MS patient who started using medical marijuana and was able to decrease use of other pharmaceutical drugs to that Parkinson’s patient, who the second they start taking medical marijuana their tremors stop, to my mother who was diagnosed with cancer right after the election and was given THC to help after she had chemo treatments.
The stories that you hear every single day, and how it’s changing people’s lives – and giving them a quality of life and getting them off of opioids and off of pharmaceutical drugs – to eventual changes when it comes to legislation on the criminal justice side. Just really giving patients that option to have a more natural, healthy alternative is really powerful – how could you not want that?
As board-certified physicians who specialize in medical cannabis treatment, we couldn’t agree more!