Medical Marijuana Patients Are Being Told To Give Up Their Guns

By Kelly Burch 12/04/17

Authorities in Pennsylvania and Hawaii are cracking down on medical marijuana users who own firearms. 

had holding a marijuana leaf behind a pair of hands holding a gun

Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. now allow patients to have access to medical marijuana, but some of these patients are bumping up against a federal law that prohibits the sale of guns to people who use marijuana. 

Authorities in Pennsylvania and Hawaii have spoken out last week, declaring that people who have medical marijuana licenses in those states will need to give up access to firearms. 

The decisions are tied to a 50-year-old law, which was upheld in a Supreme Court ruling last year. 

“The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits anyone from possessing guns if they use or are addicted to cannabis,” Christopher Morales, a California criminal defense attorney, told Leafly. The law forbids people who use federally restricted substances from owning firearms, even if the substances they use are legal in the state that they reside in. 

A Nevada medical marijuana patient challenged the law after she was denied the right to buy a firearm because of her medical marijuana card. Last September the Supreme Court ruled that it is not a violation of the Second Amendment for states to deny gun ownership to people who use medical marijuana. 

"It is beyond dispute that illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior,” justices wrote in the ruling. 

Last week the Honolulu Police Department sent letters to medical marijuana users saying that they will need to turn in their weapons within 30 days of receipt. 

“Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition,” the letter said, according to a copy obtained by Leafly. The letter went on to say that the medical marijuana patients would need a doctor’s clearance to get their firearms back. 

In Pennsylvania, authorities made a similar proclamation. 

"So in fact an individual who is issued a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania who is a user of medical marijuana, that individual would be prohibited from purchasing or technically possession of a firearm under federal law," Major Scott C. Price, Pennsylvania state police director of the Bureau of Records and Identification, said Tuesday, according to Lehigh Valley Live

Federal authorities agreed. 

"There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes," said Special Agent Joshua E. Jackson, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington, D.C.

Medical marijuana licenses come up on background checks, but 22% of gun sales take place between unlicensed sellers who are not required to conduct background checks, according to Leafly

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.