Feds Saying Using Marijuana, Even if It’s Legal Under State Law, Makes It Illegal for You to Own Guns

Hunters and collectors check out the large selection of guns and other items at the Dakota Territory Gun Collectors 36th annual Gun Show on Saturday at the Fargo Civic Center. A large crowd was present Saturday morning at the show, which continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dave Wallis / The Forum

North Dakota voters have legalized medical marijuana, though state officials are still working on implementation, and just yesterday a new ballot measure was submitted to the Secretary of State which would legalize marijuana for recreational use too.

But the intersection between state and federal policies on marijuana is still problematic in the extreme. Because to whatever degree states like North Dakota legalize marijuana, the feds still see it as illegal.

One big reason for the slow roll out of medical marijuana policy in our state is the desire among state officials to avoid inviting federal intervention.

A problem the more recent ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana faces is that it puts in place none of regulations other states have around their legalization policies to placate the feds.

Here’s another wrinkle: In Hawaii law enforcement officials are requesting that medical marijuana users turn over their guns. Because under federal law, it’s illegal for anyone using marijuana to own a firearm:

Hawaiian authorities have asked medical marijuana users to “voluntarily surrender” firearms due to their medicinal status. This may mark the first time a law enforcement entity has moved to confiscate guns from cannabis patients.

Marijuana users in Honolulu are expected to turn over all firearms and ammunition to the state within 30 days of receiving the notice, according to a letter signed by police chief Susan Ballard, reported the website Leafly.

The state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in August, but federal law prevents patients who ingest cannabis from owning a firearm. Marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule I drug by the government and is considered in the same league as ecstasy and heroin.

Here’s the official position of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF):

Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition.

This seems like a fair interpretation of the law, but the law is absurd.

While even most 2nd amendment advocates agree that those who break drug laws shouldn’t be allowed to purchase or bear firearms, what happens when the drug purchases/use are sanctioned by state governments?

Further, consider that millions of Americans take legally prescribed drugs, including opioids, for all manner of maladies. Is anyone suggesting that a citizen, prescribed Tylenol with codeine by their doctor, should have to turn in their deer rifle?

The problem for law enforcement efforts to enforce this is that the 5th amendment requires due process before property can be seized or rights denied. In other words, if they want to start taking guns from people using marijuana legally under state laws, the feds are going to have to start enforcing their marijuana policies in those states.

The better solution, I think, would be to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and let the states handle this issue.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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