In accordance with state law, the recreational use of marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado. Federal law disagrees. Marijuana is still a controlled substance in the eyes of the federal .gov and this is where things get sticky for the legal pot smoker in Colorado. It could get even stickier for the tourist post smoker in Colorado.
Colorado may start actively promoting the pot tourist trade. In "Colorado marijuana regulators sign off on pot tourism", we find some of the rules and regulations of who may own marijuana retail outlets, and how much out of state tourists may purchase at these outlets.
So what does all this have to do with purchasing a gun and becoming a felon?
When an individual purchases a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer (FFL), that individual must fill out ATF Form 4473. Note that this is an ATF form, therefore a federal .gov form. This form has a list of questions that indicate eligibility of the individual to purchase a firearm. Question 11.e asks:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressent, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?A yes answer would prevent the individuals purchase of that firearm. A Colorado pot smoker might honestly answer "No" to that question thinking that they are a lawful user of marijuana, they would most likely be wrong. The ATF has commented on medical marijuana use, and stated that:
Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.
So the ATF is stating that they don't care what the state says, they are the authority in this issue. I contacted a local gun dealer I know of from when I lived in Colorado, Jensen Arms, to see if the ATF has come out with an opinion letter following Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana usage. They have received no new direction from the ATF concerning question 11.e. If you admit to the use of marijuana, you will probably be denied the sale of a firearm.
I doubt many recreational or tourist pot smokers in Colorado will know of this ATF opinion, and if they purchase a firearm from an FFL they will answer "No" to question 11.e. In doing so the ATF will consider that what they have done "...is a crime punishable as a felony under Federal law,"
The ATF pursuing criminal charges against a Colorado pot smoker could make for a very interesting case before the Supreme Court, but I would not want to be the Defendant in such a case.
If I were a lawful gun owning pot smoker in Colorado, I would keep under the radar. I would not have my image in the local paper smoking a joint, and I would not be posting in my blog about how nice it is to legally be able to get high, a mile high. A tourist pot smoker would also have to deal with local laws when purchasing a firearm back in their home state. State and local laws also come into effect when filling our an ATF Form 4473.
Les Jones has written a very good article on this issue. Say Uncle has also written on Guns and medical marijuana. Both worth your while.