Video: House Bill Would Allow Law Enforcement to Seize Guns From Legal Medical Marijuana Users

State Rep. Todd Porter (R-Mandan) answers questions about an amendment to SB2140. Screen capture via legislative video feed

When it passed the state Senate SB2140, introduced by Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot), would have added a section to the North Dakota Century Code allowing a person 30 days to prove to law enforcement they can lawfully carry a concealed weapon.

Current law requires people carrying a weapon to produce their license immediately upon demand from law enforcement or be guilty of a crime. Larsen’s bill would give an individual 30 days to provide proof.

It’s pretty straight forward stuff. Not really controversial at all. It sailed through the state Senate on a 44-2 vote earlier this year.

In the House, though, a very controversial amendment was added to the bill:

To unpack that for you a little bit, section 19-24.1-37 is the portion of the North Dakota Century Code dealing with confidentiality for medical marijuana patients. Chapter 62.1-04 is the part of the law dealing with concealed weapons that Larsen’s bill is changing.

What this amendment means is that the state Bureau of Criminal Investigations can get information about all of North Dakota’s medical marijuana patients.

Why does the BCI want this information? Because even though medical marijuana is legal under state law, someone complying with that law is still violating federal law. Which makes their concealed carry permit illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

Up to the point where law enforcement could seize the guns of the medical marijuana patient, and treat them like a felon.

This exchange between Rep. Greg Westlind and Rep. Todd Porter, both Republicans, was revealing. Westlind asks if BCI could seize guns from people with medical marijuana licenses.

“They certainly could based on my information or my knowledge of the bill,” Porter said in response. “They would be deemed to be a felon inside of the federal government, because they did not comply with the gun owner laws of the United States of America. So, they certainly could.”

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The biggest problem here is the federal government. Their ongoing prohibition of marijuana creates these sort of challenges in legalizing marijuana, to any degree, at the state level. Thankfully there is legislation in the works in Washington D.C. which has broad bipartisan support – including from at least two members of North Dakota’s federal delegation (I haven’t checked with Senator Hoeven’s office on their support.

There isn’t much the state Legislature can do about that, other than to urge the federal government to make room for state-level legalization.

But why does the Legislature have to give state law enforcement access to medical marijuana permit holders? North Dakota is already violating federal law by legalizing medical marijuana, but now we’re going to make people following state law vulnerable to law enforcement when it comes to their gun rights? Using alcohol doesn’t impact your ability to own a gun and carry concealed (though obviously carrying/using a gun while drunk is a problem). Heck, having an alcohol infraction such as a DUI doesn’t have an impact.

Yet somehow following medical marijuana law is a problem?

This was a very bad amendment.

Because the House amended this bill the modified version would also have to be approved by the Senate. Let’s hope this amendment is killed in negotiations between the two chambers. It’s really unnecessary.

By the way, the Legislature has specifically defeated bills to protect the gun rights of medical marijuana patients. HB1148 says “a person authorized to possess medical marijuana under this chapter is not precluded from possessing a firearm or dangerous weapon.” It was defeated on a 6-85 vote back in February.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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