The Absurdity of Marijuana and Firearm Laws

While the federal government has been generally tolerant of state experimentation with cannabis legalization, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has made it clear it will not tolerate mixing cannabis and guns....Read more
While the federal government has been generally tolerant of state experimentation with cannabis legalization, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has made it clear it will not tolerate mixing cannabis and guns. Thus, firearms dealers will have to abide by the ATF’s rules by denying medical cannabis card holders and anyone convicted of illegal cannabis possession the right to purchase guns. The enforcement of this law creates an absurd policy issue as states must register medical cannabis patient data but not recreational marijuana consumer data. As a result, medical cannabis patients are denied gun rights because the state keeps a registry that shows up when firearm background checks are conducted. Recreational users, however, are not required to register to purchase retail cannabis and are therefore untracked. The contradiction is blatant and damaging to medical patients, especially for those using the non-psychoactive CBD compound found in cannabis products that are commonly used to mitigate epileptic seizures. Read less
Harrisburg, PA (Federal)
June 3, 2019
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Spence Purnell

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While states cannot reverse federal government policy, they have a spectrum upon which they can enforce it.  On the more restrictive end of the spectrum, states could require medical cannabis users to surrender all of the guns they currently own as well as forbidding future purchases. Some local governments,... Read more

June 3, 2019

While states cannot reverse federal government policy, they have a spectrum upon which they can enforce it.  On the more restrictive end of the spectrum, states could require medical cannabis users to surrender all of the guns they currently own as well as forbidding future purchases. Some local governments, like Honolulu, have unsuccessfully attempted this. On the other end of the spectrum, Pennsylvania has crafted an innovative approach centered around database sharing. The state’s Department of Health decided it will no longer share the medical marijuana registry with the state’s law enforcement database, JNET. The practical outcome of this policy is that background checks done by firearms dealers will not identify whether or not the person is a medical marijuana card holder, effectively bypassing the restriction.

Until then, states should consider their options immediately, as Pennsylvania has done, since criminal penalties for this violation are heavy. Possessing marijuana and a firearm triggers an automatic federal felony, which restricts gun ownership for life alongside the other serious consequences of carrying a felony.  Pennsylvania’s practice of withholding medical marijuana registries from state law enforcement databases may be the most amicable solution to this policy issue until the federal government changes the law.

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The Absurdity of Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws

2019/03/07 - Reason Foundation