Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jul 2018
Source: Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA)
Copyright: 2018 The Times-Picayune
Author: Maria Clark


As Louisiana's medical marijuana program takes shape some patients
might have to make a difficult choice: keep their gun ownership rights
or participate in the program.

Louisiana is one of 30 states that have approved medical marijuana
laws in some form. Although the state's nine dispensaries won't open
until later this year, patients who qualify for medical marijuana
under Louisiana law may be surprised to learn that federal law
restricts their ability to purchase a gun if they use marijuana.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has not
budged from their stance published in a 2011 memo that addressed this

The letter notes that the Controlled Substance Act prohibits anyone
who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance
from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and under
that classification is not considered medicine under federal law.

According to the ATF memo, "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 or

Although the National Rifle Association has not taken a public stance
in support of the cannabis industry, former NRA president David Keene
wrote in a February op-ed in the Washington Times that the "refusal of
the federal government to accede to the judgment of the states on the
issue has created problems for tens or even hundreds of thousands of
gun owners who are being forced to either trade their Second Amendment
rights for a chance to live pain-free or risk prosecution and

In order to purchase a gun, the buyer has to fill out a form that asks
if the person is an unlawful user or addicted to marijuana along with
any other controlled substance. The question on the ATF form is
followed by the warning that the use or possession of marijuana
remains illegal regardless of whether or not it has been
decriminalized in the state the gun buyer lives in.

Kate Bell, the general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, a
national organization that works on marijuana policy reform, said this
has forced gun buyers with medical marijuana cards to make a difficult

"They are either committing perjury by lying on the form or not buying
a gun," she said.

There have been efforts to address this issue at the national level,
Bell said.

In June Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep.
David Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill called
the STATES act that would allow every state to legalize and regulate
cannabis as they see fit. If a state chooses to do nothing, cannabis
would remain federally illegal within that state's borders.

Although there is a risk, Bell said that the Department of Justice is
not necessarily interested in targeting individual patients in states
where cannabis has been legalized.

"That's not how they want to use their resources. State law is going
to protect a vast amount of patients," she said.
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