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Bradley v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 14, 2019

JOSHUA BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAN AARON POLSTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff Joshua Bradley brings this action against Defendants United States of America, Matthew G. Whitaker (Acting Attorney General), Thomas E. Brandon (Acting Deputy Director of U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), and Regina Lombardo (Acting Associate Deputy Director of U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) (collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. #: 1). Bradley asks this Court to enjoin Defendants from enforcing 18 U.S.C. § 922 and declare that statute unconstitutional because application of the statute would interfere with his constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, and to equal protection, “if and when” he registers for Ohio's medical marijuana program to treat his PTSD[1] symptoms. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff has filed a motion to proceed with the action in forma pauperis (Doc. #: 2) and that motion is granted.

         For the reasons that follow, this case is dismissed.

         A. Background

         Plaintiff states that marijuana is legal for medical purposes in a number of states, including Ohio, and is a Schedule 1 substance under federal law “reserved for drugs with the greatest potential for abuse and with no medicinal value.” Plaintiff alleges he has been diagnosed with PTSD, which is one of the conditions in Ohio qualifying for treatment with medical marijuana, and that he is eligible to register for Ohio's medical marijuana program. (Doc. #: 1 ¶¶ 8-12).

         But Plaintiff claims that he is unable to register for Ohio's medical marijuana program because he possesses firearms and ammunition and 18 U.S.C. § 922, which “prohibits unlawful drug users from owning firearms or ammunition and prohibits firearm dealers from selling guns to known drug users, ” applies to users of medical marijuana. (Id. ¶ 28). Bradley claims in Count 1 of the Complaint that the application of § 922 to medical marijuana use violates his right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 24-29). In Count 2, Plaintiff alleges that application of § 922 to medical marijuana use violates his Fourteenth Amendment right equal protection because the medical marijuana he is allowed to receive under Ohio law is classified under federal law as a Schedule 1 substance. (Id. 4-5).

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff claims that if the Court does not issue an injunction to prohibit Defendants from enforcing § 922, he will go without the medical marijuana that he needs to relieve his PTSD symptoms. And without a declaration that § 922, ATF[2] regulations, and ATF's “open letter to all federal firearms licensees” violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, he would be subject to felony charges and harassment by law enforcement if he both registered for Ohio's medical marijuana program and possessed firearms. (Id. at 5-6).

         B. Standard of Review

         Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by lawyers, and must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam). That said, federal district courts are expressly required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen all in forma pauperis actions and to dismiss before service any such action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. The standard for dismissal articulated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) with respect to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) also governs dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a claim. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Therefore, in order to survive scrutiny under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a pro se complaint “‘must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         C. Analysis

         1. 18 U.S.C. § 922

          Plaintiff's complaint centers on 18 U.S.C. § 922, but he does not specify the subsection which he asks this Court to declare unconstitutional and enjoin enforcement.[3] However, based upon the language in the Complaint and Plaintiff's reference to the Open Letter[4] issued by ATF on September 21, 2011, it appears that Plaintiff is referring to 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3)[5] and (d)(3).[6]

         The ATF Open Letter was issued to “provide guidance” to federal firearms licensees in response to “inquiries regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes and its applicability to Federal firearms laws and regulations.” The Open Letter provides in relevant part that:

Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), prohibits any persons who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 802))” from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition. Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I 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. Further, Federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 992(d)(3), makes it unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance. . . . Therefore, any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of ...

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