Cannabis in Court: Medical Cannabis Doctor Sues Trump Administration for Right to Own Firearms


Matthew Roman, a 34-year-old Philadelphia doctor, is suing the Trump administration over the federal legislation that bars him, a legally certified medical cannabis user with diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), from purchasing or owning a firearm.

Roman, who wanted a weapon for self-defense, visited a federally licensed South Philadelphia gun store in April with the intention of acquiring a handgun, ultimately deciding on a Smith & Wesson 638 revolver. When he attempted to check out with his selection, however, he was denied the purchase. The clerk, citing the federal statute maintained by the Trump administration, informed Roman that he was unable to purchase any firearm due to his status as a medical cannabis patient.

Roman’s practice involves prescribing medical cannabis to patients that he feels will benefit most from the treatment. A patient himself, he understands and values cannabis for its effectiveness in relieving pain, eliminating stress, and promoting overall joyfulness and relaxation. Roman’s prescription was obtained legally in accordance with Pennsylvania state and federal regulations.

The Gun Control Act of 1968

Per the 1968 Gun Control Act, a so-called “unlawful” cannabis user (or any controlled substance user) must be denied purchase or ownership of a firearm. Unfortunately, “unlawful” is left without further definition, and has since been interpreted to mean “any marijuana user.” Because the federal government continues to define cannabis as a Schedule I substance, federally licensed gun sellers, who are required by law to ask about marijuana use, are forced to prohibit all self-reported cannabis users from purchasing firearms.

More recently, the federal government codified its stance on cannabis use and gun ownership in a 2011 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) guidance letter: Admit to cannabis use and give up your right to purchase a weapon. The unspoken alternatives are clear: don’t buy a gun, or, when you do, lie about your cannabis use. Apparently, the issue came to a head in Hawaii back in 2017 when police announced that they would confiscate weapons from medical cannabis cardholders; after significant backlash, the police opted not to carry out their plan.

This is the dilemma that hunters, veterans and other gun owners who use cannabis face, and one of the reasons why cannabis advocacy groups are paying such close attention to the details and eventual outcome of Roman’s federal lawsuit. The other is timing; Roman’s case comes at a time when medical cannabis is beginning to expand to places with high gun ownership rates, like Oklahoma, Missouri, South Carolina and even Texas.

What’s The Argument?

Roman argues that federal law violates not only medical cannabis users’ Second Amendment right to bear arms, but also the right against self-incrimination protected by the Fifth Amendment. The suit, filed in November of last year, references the transaction forms used by firearm sellers that specifically require medical cannabis patients to report their use as “unlawful,” even in instances when medical use is legal per state law. Named in the suit are Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, and Thomas E. Brandon, head of the ATF.

The complaint alleges that the federal government is placing medical cannabis patients in the same category of potential gun abusers as those “adjudicated mentally ill” and those convicted of a felony. Furthermore, firearm ownership is legal for users of certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs that treat the same conditions as medical cannabis - yet cannabis, which in many cases involves comparatively safer side effects, remains “unlawful” at the federal level.

As Roman’s attorney, John Weston, recently told Cannabis Wire, “While you may be increasing some sort of problem with society with recreational use, you’re clearly not with medical marijuana use. You’re perfectly legal treating yourself with Ambien or Percocet, and even though those are far more dangerous drugs, they don’t deprive you of any constitutional rights.”

The situation is further complicated by the fact that many medical cannabis dispensaries are owned and operated by people who are patients themselves, and who use the medicine to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions. The inability to own or purchase firearms leaves many of these individuals feeling vulnerable to robbery--no small concern when we consider that many of these operations deal largely in cash due to credit card and banking limitations around the sale of cannabis.

What’s The Outlook?

Although the court may try to throw out Roman’s lawsuit, his legal team’s hopes remain high: "Pennsylvania statute defines an unlawful user as someone who does it without a recommendation from a doctor. Under state law, it seems to us that a medical marijuana patient with a state-issued card is not an unlawful user of a controlled substance. That statute should not apply at all."

Whether the ultimate ruling inspires a complete rethinking of firearm availability to medical cannabis patients nationwide, or only benefits Roman himself, we feel that any shift in perception will certainly be considered a win.

Today’s blog is written by Rick Weyback, MD, founder and president of Doctor Jane and our licensed medical marijuana physician. If you are considering marijuana treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the team here at Doctor Jane at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical marijuana treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation.