Don Young, Cannabis

"I’ve visited my state’s legal cannabis operations, and the fact is that these businesses contribute to our economy and create jobs for Alaskans," Rep. Don Young said in 2020 during a visit to a cannabis business in Alaska. 

U.S. Rep. Don Young has introduced the Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act to prevent the federal government from restricting gun owner rights of marijuana users in states and jurisdictions where cannabis is legal.

Young, who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, aims “to secure the Second Amendment rights of Americans living in jurisdictions with legal adult-use and medicinal marijuana,” according to a news release from Young’s office.

HR 2830 is a bill “to protect the Second Amendment rights of adults whose use of marijuana is permitted by State or tribal law,” according to the legislation.

U.S. Reps. Brian Mast of Florida and Rodney Davis of Illinois are co-sponsoring the bill, which was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The bill exempts people in states and jurisdictions where marijuana is legal from a federal law that bans “an unlawful user” of a controlled substance from possessing a firearm. 

Under federal law, cannabis is illegal and listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, along with heroin and LSD, even as many states and Washington, D.C., have legalized it for recreational and/or medicinal use. Alaska voters legalized cannabis in 2014.

Young’s legislation does not seek to overturn federal law. Marijuana would stay a federal Schedule 1 controlled substance under the law change. But the GRAM Act specifies that “unlawful user” would no longer apply to marijuana. 

“Using marijuana where it’s legal should never stop you from exercising your Constitutional rights, including your Second Amendment rights,” Young said on Twitter after introducing the bill.

Young noted that the GRAM Act protects both Second Amendment rights for gun owners and Tenth Amendment rights for states to enact their own cannabis laws.

“Gun ownership is a significant part of Alaska’s culture and lifestyle,” Young said. “When my constituents chose to legalize adult-use marijuana, they were not surrendering their Second Amendment rights.”

Young noted that more Americans are buying firearms for self-defense, sportsmanship and hunting, as many states legalize cannabis.

The reforms set up potential risks under federal law for people who purchase and own guns in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.

According to Marijuana Moment, which reports on cannabis, Honolulu police in 2017 notified medical marijuana patients by mail that they needed to surrender their guns. The police later rescinded the order.

“While we make progress in some areas, it is vital that we do not roll back progress in others,” Young said, noting his status as both co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus and a board member of the National Rifle Association.

Recreational use of cannabis is legal in 17 states, the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Thirteen states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use.

Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states, four U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics