Illinois State Police Mistakenly Told MMJ Patients They Can't Own Guns

By McCarton Ackerman 12/21/15

Clashing state and federal laws are confusing even law enforcement.


State police in Illinois apparently didn’t get the memo that legal medical marijuana patients are allowed to own firearms. Almost two years after the rules of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program were changed to allow patients to own guns, Illinois State Police (ISP) erroneously informed several patients that their firearms cards were being revoked.

The letters addressed to the patients ordered them to surrender their Firearm Owner's ID cards because they were illegally using a controlled substance. The state police said only four patients received the letters before correcting the error. 

“The very first thing I said was: 'From my cold, dead hands,'" said Iraq veteran Joshua Gillan, who received one of the letters in November. “I don’t believe the state can produce a document that supersedes the Constitution that I fought for with my bloody hands.” It took a week for Gillan to not have his status listed as “DENIED” on the ISP website.

A firearm owners checklist on the ISP website includes the requirement, "I am not a medical marijuana patient registry card holder." ISP spokesman Matt Boerwinkle acknowledged that this too was an error, and that the agency is working to remove it from the website. But some marijuana activists have doubts that the errors were unintentional.

"The opposite is probably true," said Tyler Anthony, a Chicago attorney with the Canna Law Group. "Even taking their word for it, they shouldn’t be careless with citizens’ constitutional rights, especially when their position lacks any clear legal basis."

At the federal level, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives wrote an open letter in 2011 informing firearms dealers that federal law prohibited medical cannabis users from owning firearms and ammunition.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.