Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried, announced on 4/20 that she is suing the Biden administration over its curtailing of medical cannabis patients’ gun rights. It’s a rare instance of a state official suing their own party's presidential administration — but Fried says the matter is too urgent to play nice with fellow Democrats.
“I don’t care who I have to sue to fight for their freedom,” she told NBC News. Her office argues that instead of taking steps towards recognizing the state-legal rights of weed and gun users, the feds have actually added explicit language to the 4473 gun-buying form that explicitly warns of marijuana’s federally-illegal status.
Cannabis and guns may seem like an odd pairing for a political cause, but Fried’s move is carefully aimed at putting pressure on the Biden administration, which has dragged its feet on ensuring the rights of cannabis consumers. Fried’s lawsuit hit the headlines on 4/20, seemingly timed to generate peak media attention and stoner outrage. In a political landscape like Florida, the lawsuit seems destined to be popular: Cannabis access has been shown to resonate overwhelmingly with the state’s voters (much like in most of the rest of the country.)
Fried is also running to become Florida's next governor in November.
Reasons behind federal inaction likely have something to do with President Biden’s personal reservations around the safety of widening cannabis access. In April, the administration announced that it only supported rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug, which would put it in the same category as cocaine, oxycodone, and fentanyl (the super-potent synthetic opioid often blamed for the United States’ skyrocketing overdose rates). At times, Republican lawmakers can even seem like they have more political energy behind the cause of cannabis regulation.
The NBC News report included a maybe-not-so surprising quote from Biden fundraiser and cannabis advocate John Morgan: “I talked to Joe about this personally, and he just won’t do it. Joe Biden doesn’t understand marijuana.”
But Biden’s term was far from the beginning of turmoil at the intersection of cannabis and gun rights. Different states have navigated the quandary of whether one can responsibly partake in both in different ways. Oklahoma legislated cannabis consumers' gun rights with 2020’s SB 959. Illinois state police has assured advocates that they would not revoke Firearm Owners’ Identification (FOID) cards over the use or possession of cannabis. Legislation introduced at the national level has so far stalled. So has most federal cannabis-related legislation though, to be fair.
Most notably, the federal legalization measure that the House of Representatives approved in April faces stiff odds in the Senate.