US Some patients will face a choice: medical marijuana or their gun

21:47  08 january  2018
21:47  08 january  2018 Source:   MSN

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As medical marijuana goes on sale in Maryland, some people interested in using the drug to manage medical conditions face a tough decision: Get access to the medicine or keep hold of their gun .

The Honolulu Police Department is sending letters to medical marijuana patients warning them that they have thirty days to “voluntarily” hand over their firearms. A Nevada medical marijuana patient , S. Rowan Wilson, filed a lawsuit in 2011 after a gun store Ten Choices You Will Regret in 10 Years.

a man standing next to a tree: ADVANCE FOR MONDAY JUNE 1 - FILE - In this photo taken Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Guy Lindblom picks unnecessary leaves from mature cannabis plants so they can concentrate more of their energy into the flowering buds where the medicinal chemicals are produced at a greenhouse in Otsego, Minn. The crop is coming in at Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of two manufacturers who will be supplying the state's medical marijuana. Some health care providers are sitting out completely while others are ready to start certifying patients. (AP Photo,Star Tribune,Glen Stubbe,File) MANDATORY CREDIT; ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS OUT; MAGS OUT; TWIN CITIES LOCAL TELEVISION OUT ORG XMIT: MNMIT801 © Baltimore Sun ADVANCE FOR MONDAY JUNE 1 - FILE - In this photo taken Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Guy Lindblom picks unnecessary leaves from mature cannabis plants so they can concentrate more of their energy into the flowering buds where the medicinal chemicals are produced at a greenhouse in Otsego, Minn. The crop is coming in at Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of two manufacturers who will be supplying the state's medical marijuana. Some health care providers are sitting out completely while others are ready to start certifying patients. (AP Photo,Star Tribune,Glen Stubbe,File) MANDATORY CREDIT; ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS OUT; MAGS OUT; TWIN CITIES LOCAL TELEVISION OUT ORG XMIT: MNMIT801

Now that medical marijuana is legally available in Maryland, some who want to use the drug to manage health problems face a dilemma: To get the pot, they surrender their right to own a gun.

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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 .

While the state of Pennsylvania has no law on the books that forces legal marijuana patients to turn in their guns , the state police are ignoring state’s rights It is legal under Pennsylvania law for the holder of a validly issued patient Medical Marijuana Card to possess approved forms of medical marijuana .

The question arises because marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, is still illegal under federal law. Authorities have long made it clear to gun dealers that they shouldn’t sell to people who use marijuana medically, and federal law prohibits drug users from owning guns.

Former state Del. Mike Smigiel, who sponsored medical marijuana laws and is a staunch advocate of gun rights, said it was wrong for the government to force people to choose between getting medical help and being able to defend themselves.

The Eastern Shore Republican said marijuana and guns should be treated like alcohol and guns — don’t use them at the same time.

“You don’t drink when you’re using firearms,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s any different.”

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“There’s no list of who owns guns .” So medical marijuana patients shouldn’t expect a letter or knock on their door asking them to turn over their firearm. “I think that some people out there are probably concerned about it, but I’m not exactly sure how warranted that concern is.”

But this was the point where I encountered the dilemma which all pregnant potential medical marijuana patients must face : what legal risks Perhaps the first step to helping pregnant women is to unite the marijuana industry and advocacy movement to support the choices they make with their doctors.

The Maryland State Police, who oversee gun ownership in the state, ask prospective gun buyers if they have a medical marijuana card. By law, buyers must allow the state health department to disclose whether they have applied for a card.

Gun advocates say they have seen questions about medical marijuana appear in the application process only in recent months. State police didn’t respond to questions about the policy.

Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that advocates liberalizing marijuana laws, said the organization doesn’t think medical use of the drug should be a barrier to gun ownership.

“In general, we think medical marijuana patients should have the same rights as other law-abiding Americans,” he said.

Maryland began to authorize a medical marijuana program in 2013.The first growers under the current system were licensed last year, and sales began at a small number of dispensaries in December. Marijuana is permitted for a wide range of ailments, but patients must register with the state and get a recommendation from a doctor or other medical professional.

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That has medical marijuana advocates crying foul, but national gun rights groups -- not so much. Trying to treat medical marijuana patients like second-class citizens and stripping them of their rights as they are dealing with illness is just despicable." Get out of my face government.

The new guidelines tell prosecutors and federal drug agents they have more important things to do than to arrest people who are obeying state laws that allow some use or sale of medical marijuana . "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their

Supplies of the drug are expected to be limited until the spring, but the guns-or-marijuana decision already has started reverberating in firearm enthusiast circles, generating a lengthy discussion on a popular gun-owners’ forum online.

“This is leading to a very dark place,” one user wrote. “Where the government can deny your right because of what prescriptions you are on.”

A leading Second Amendment group in Maryland is trying to spread the word that firearms owners will face a choice.

Mark Pennak, president of the gun-rights group Maryland Shall Issue, recently published a notice on the group’s website laying out the legal issues.

“I just want people to be aware,” Pennak, a former Justice Department lawyer, told The Baltimore Sun. “There’s so many ins and outs to gun laws, so many pitfalls and traps, this is probably one that’s easily overlooked.”

Several Baltimore-area gun store operators said they had not yet had to turn away a customer over medical marijuana usage. But Chad Fox, owner of Fox’s Firearms in Columbia, said the law is clear: Federal gun rules bar users of the drug from owning or purchasing a firearm, and a question about drug use on a form that prospective gun buyers are asked to fill out warns them that medical marijuana is no different.

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While the state of Pennsylvania has no law on the books that forces legal marijuana patients to turn in their guns , the state police are ignoring state’s rights It is legal under Pennsylvania law for the holder of a validly issued patient Medical Marijuana Card to possess approved forms of medical marijuana .

The letter also tells gun sellers that they could be in line for punishment if they knowingly sell to medical - marijuana patients . “People shouldn’t be denied their constitutional rights based on their choice of medicine .”

“Basically, anyone that smokes marijuana has to answer yes to that question,” Fox said. “They do that, I can’t sell them a firearm.”

Federal authorities were largely content under the Obama administration to allow states to experiment with marijuana laws. But last week, the Trump administration rescinded guidance to federal prosecutors to turn a blind eye to most marijuana offenses.

Even before that change, Pennak was wary of the way federal law enforcement viewed the combination of guns and marijuana.

“The prosecutor is not your friend,” he said. “Don’t think he’s going to give you a break because you're a good guy.”

If individual gun owners are not a priority, Pennak said, gun dealers could face trouble — the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives alerted firearms dealers at least as far back as 2011 that they shouldn’t sell guns to medical marijuana users.

In 2016, a federal appeals court in California ruled in the case of a Nevada woman that possessing a medical marijuana card was grounds to deny a gun sale, even without evidence of any marijuana use. That decision doesn’t automatically apply in Maryland.

In Pennsylvania, where the state is rolling out its own medical marijuana program this year, state police issued a warning recently that cardholders are barred from gun ownership.

“It is unlawful under federal law for you to keep possession of any firearms which you owned or had in your possession prior to obtaining a medical marijuana card,” the state warns. “We recommend that you consult an attorney if you have any questions about your firearms.”

And in Hawaii, police have sent letters to medical marijuana patients who owned guns telling them they had 30 days to surrender their weapons, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Pennak thinks authorities in Maryland have done too little to alert medical marijuana users about the choice they face.

“This state hasn’t been very active with putting people on notice,” he said. “I think the states really ought to be warning people ... who are about to get their medical marijuana cards that they're about to lose their rights under federal law.”

iduncan@baltsun.com

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Once pot friendly Northern California county bans marijuana .
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