Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock panned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for issuing a memo to gun merchants prohibiting them from selling firearms to those who admit to having a prescription for medicinal marijuana.
Bullock, a candidate for Montana governor, told the Justice Department Monday that the September 21 directive violates the Second and Fifth Amendments, according to the AP, and the right of Montanans to hunt, which is enshrined in the state’s constitution.
He said that federal policies “do not always reflect the kind of careful approach and appropriate accommodation that should be accorded the states,” and called on Attorney General Eric Holder to abstain from prosecuting medicinal marijuana users who buy guns.
Bullock disputed the blanket ban that the Controlled Substances Act supposedly places on cannabis, saying that the ATF overlooked “the controlling federal regulation [that] recognizes that a person who uses a controlled substance in a manner prescribed by a physician is not disqualified from possessing or buying ammunition or guns.”
He added that a prescription for medicinal marijuana does not give patients the right to use it all the time.
The state’s attorney general joined a chorus of Montana public officials who have attacked the Obama administration for issuing the ruling, including Democratic U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and U.S. Rep Denny Rehberg (R).
Last month’s policy clarification came from the ATF as a result of “a number of inquiries” received about “the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and its applicability to Federal firearms laws.”
Montana is one of sixteen states that permits doctors to prescribe marijuana as a pain reliever. The District of Columbia also has a law permitting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010, 73 percent of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor.
On Monday, former ATF Acting Director Mike Sullivan appeared on Fox News to defend the bureau’s memo.
“ATF is following the Gun Control Act, which indicates that anybody who is unlawfully using or addicted to any controlled substance is prohibited from purchasing a firearm,” he said.
“And the last time I looked marijuana is still listed as a controlled substance by the two principle federal agencies, the FDA and DEA, and it is still a federal crime to cultivate, possess or distribute marijuana. So ATF is in compliance with the Gun Control Act and they’re responding to inquires from gun dealers.”