In a brief submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Wednesday, attorneys for the Justice Department responded to a series of prompts from the judges, asserting that the firearm ban for marijuana consumers is justified based on historical analogues to restrictions on the mentally ill and habitually drunk that were imposed during the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification in 1791.
The federal government has repeatedly affirmed that those analogues, which must be demonstrated to maintain firearm restrictions under a recent Supreme Court ruling, provide clear support for limiting gun rights for cannabis users. But several federal courts have separately deemed the marijuana-related ban unconstitutional, leading DOJ to appeal in several ongoing cases.
For the case before the Third Circuit, the government is defending the ban against Erik Matthew Harris, who was convicted of violating the federal statute prohibiting the possession of a firearm by a person “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” As the Daily Caller first reported, Harris’s legal representation also submitted a supplemental brief to the court on Wednesday that broadly disputes both the substance of the conviction under the statute, as well as the idea that there are relevant historical analogues to uphold the existing ban.
Many of the government’s arguments have been raised in prior court cases. For example, the Justice Department said that the answer to the court’s question about whether habitual recreational use of marijuana can produce schizophrenic-like mental illness is “yes,” and “for that reason, habitual drug users may lawfully be disarmed for as long as they continue to unlawfully use drugs.”
DOJ said there’s “demonstrated correlation between marijuana use and certain mental illnesses,” though it conceded that “the association is not necessarily causal.”
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