Friday June 28, 2019
Imagine having access to the press, but not being allowed to freely speak your mind. Or practicing your choice of religion, but giving up your right to unlawful search and seizure of your religious artifacts. Of course, these hypotheticals would cause quite the commotion and many people would agree that they are a violation of American rights. No one wants to give up one right in exchange for another, but sadly this is the dilemma that many cannabis consumers are facing when they apply for their medical cannabis card. In fact, what some people aren’t aware of is that when they get their medical marijuana card, they are also giving up their right to bear arms. Confused? Are you thinking that cannabis doesn’t cause people to use firearms improperly? That’s not the point here.
The point is that the federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule I substance and medical cannabis patients are forced to give up their second amendment rights to gain access to their medicine. Since cannabis is scheduled by the federal government, medical cannabis consumers are officially placed on ‘prohibited persons’ lists for gun sales. Obviously, there are plenty of people opposed to these rules and there are even people fighting to change the laws as we speak.
Do Medical Cannabis Patients Have To Give Up Their Guns?
The answer depends on the jurisdiction. Each state, prosecutor, and locality may treat this differently according to their interpretation of the law. However, since 2014, Congress has forbidden the Justice Department to spend its money prosecuting consumers of state-legalized cannabis. Unfortunately though, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) takes a strong stance against cannabis use and gun ownership.
In an email to the Associated Press, ATF spokeswoman Janice L. Kemp said, “Any person who uses…marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medical purposes...is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms.”
That sends a strong message that the Feds are not going to take the possession of a handgun and a medical cannabis card at the same time lightly. While they don’t have the funds to do much about it, states and local jurisdictions do. Plus, with the increased scrutiny of gun ownership in the United States, it’s basically impossible (and unwise considering the legal implications) for a patient to hide their medical marijuana patient status when purchasing a firearm.
How Do State and Local Prosecutors Approach Gun Ownership?
No matter what state you’re in, if a person indicates they are a medical cannabis card holder, the ‘prohibited persons’ tag will forbid them from purchasing a firearm. There have even been reports of former patients who do not currently have an active medical marijuana card being denied gun ownership as well.
However, in states like Pennsylvania where gun ownership levels are high, the state refuses to turn over its register of medical cannabis card holders. This helps keep its citizens from being placed on the ‘prohibited persons’ list. Alternatively, a police chief in Hawaii recently issued a statement indicating that cannabis users must turn in their weapons – and two people did. That statement was rescinded shortly thereafter, but it’s a good example of what can happen when states or localities attempt to follow federal standards of regulation.
What Should Gun-Owning Cannabis Consumers Expect in the Future?
While some governments and legislatures around the country are seeking to protect their citizens’ gun ownership rights, there is one argument that stands out above all else: drinking alcohol, opioid addiction, and antidepressant use doesn’t prohibit people from purchasing guns, neither should medical cannabis use. Even cannabis consumers on the recreational side are able to purchase firearms, making it increasingly confusing as to why medical cannabis patients are singled out.
This idea harkens back to the absurdity of cannabis being a Schedule I drug. There’s firm evidence showing it to be a medicine, it’s safer for human consumption than alcohol, and doesn’t impair motor capabilities like opioids. It should be immediately de-scheduled, but laws move slowly. As more states continue to join the bandwagon to legalize cannabis, the federal government will be all but forced to follow suit or otherwise be in the position of having to prosecute the entire country.
Does Cannabis Use and Gun Ownership Present Unnecessary Dangers?
According to a recent study done in the Netherlands, on average, people who consume cannabis are less prone to aggression and violence when using cannabis. They also found that acute alcohol intoxication is linked to increased aggression and violence. While there are people who will point to studies indicating the link between cannabis use and gang violence, saying that the violence is a result of the cannabis use is like saying that starting on formula is linked to gang violence. There may be a correlation to the two, but there is no causation. It’s not the cannabis that causes gang violence, it’s the high poverty levels in regions where gangs exist. So, does cannabis use and gun ownership create untold risks? No more than alcohol use and gun ownership does, and potentially even less.
Where Does the Future of Gun Rights and Cannabis Users Lie?
Senator Folmer of Pennsylvania articulated it well in his voice of support to the President when he endorsed SR 253 on the senate floor: ‘when we passed Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law, we declared: scientific evidence suggests cannabis is one medical therapy that may mitigate suffering…and enhance quality-of-life.’ He continued, ‘Congress needs to address the problems of having two federal laws that conflict with one another while creating problems for…citizens.’
As a plurality of Americans agree on both gun ownership and cannabis use, Senators and Congress people will hopefully keep pushing for citizens’ rights to be upheld. Fortunately, the federal government doesn’t have the funds nor the overwhelming power to enact the Draconian laws it would rather enforce.
Having to decide between arming yourself for self-defense and using a plant as medicine is placing people in a double-bind. It’s like saying: you can have this right, but you have to give up another. That’s not a fair choice, and we hope the laws will soon change to protect lawful citizens from the federal government’s overreach. Have you spoken with your Senator or Congressperson to urge them to protect cannabis users?
What are your thoughts on medical cannabis consumption and gun ownership? Share them in the comments below!