Sunday, September 16, 2018

U.S. gun laws disarm cannabis users (I)

Guns or marijuana? Firearm-owning cannabis users facing a choice - Mark Scolforo, Associated Press:

January 15, 2018 - "As gun-loving Pennsylvania becomes the latest state to operate a medical marijuana program ... authorities are warning patients that federal law bars marijuana users from having guns or ammunition ... but the reality of how the policy might be enforced in Pennsylvania and other states is a little muddier. That includes the question of whether people who already own guns might have to surrender them, instead of just being prohibited from making new purchases....

"State laws allowing medical or, more recently, recreational use of pot have long been at odds with the federal prohibition on gun ownership by those using marijuana. But the government has traditionally taken a hands-off approach. Since 2014, Congress has forbidden the Department of Justice from spending money to prosecute people who grow, sell and use medical pot....

"The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] has left no doubt where it stands. Last year, the ATF spelled out the marijuana prohibition in boldface type on gun purchase forms.

“'Any person who uses or is addicted to 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 or ammunition,' ATF spokeswoman Janice L. Kemp said in an email to The Associated Press....

"The gun-ownership ban has withstood at least one legal challenge. An appeals court in San Francisco, reject[ed] a challenge on Second Amendment grounds ... in 2016.... Meanwhile, some state and local officials, particularly in law enforcement, have sought to crack down.

"William Bryson, chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, told state lawmakers in December that people who use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes should be required to have a designation on their driver’s licenses. That would make it easier, he said, for police to enforce the ban.

"And last month, a police chief in Hawaii publicized and then quickly rescinded a directive that medical marijuana patients had to give up their handguns. [However, the department continues to deny new gun permits for cannabis cardholders.]...

"The issue has been largely theoretical, but there would be quick pushback if the federal government took a more aggressive stance, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"Between 1998 and 2014, nearly 100,000 prospective gun purchasers went home empty-handed because they were flagged as using illegal drugs, according to the ATF. But the agency could not say how many of those used medical or recreational marijuana."

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See also: U.S. gun laws disarm cannabis users (II)

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