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Proposed Illinois gun ban for medical marijuana users points to larger issues

Tyler Williams of Blanchester, Ohio may look happy now as he selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary. How he’ll feel about things in 10 or 20 years, if he ever wants to “legally” own a gun, remains to be seen.
Tyler Williams of Blanchester, Ohio may look happy now as he selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary. How he’ll feel about things in 10 or 20 years, if he ever wants to “legally” own a gun, remains to be seen.
Theo Stroomer/Getty Images

Patients obtaining medical marijuana in Illinois will give up their state-recognized right to own guns if a proposal by the Illinois Department of Public Health is approved, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday. “The plan outlines how adults who have any of 41 specified medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS or complex regional pain syndrome, may apply to get a patient registry identification card to purchase medical pot,” the report explains.

That means rather than hold substance abusers accountable for harming others while under the influence, sick and vulnerable people in physically weakened conditions will be unable to defend themselves at all times.

The National Rifle Association had no position, deferring to federal law and the courts. But the issue goes beyond Illinois. Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, creates the same condition where people must choose between pot and guns if they wish to remain “legal.”

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” ATF’s Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record asks, and if the answer is “Yes,” a sale may not proceed. Lying about that is a felony, and state laws notwithstanding, the federal government’s position is clear:

“[A]ny 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 ammunition,” ATF Enforcement Programs and Services made clear in a 2011 open letter to Federal Firearms Licensees.

Adding to the legal confusion, Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman reported a few months before ATF released its letter how the Oregon Supreme Court ruled medical marijuana users could not be denied concealed carry permits -- it’s just that they couldn’t own guns.

There’s another consideration, a speculation really, as information is sketchy: While ATF is prohibited by law from creating a database of gun owners, it appears federal power can trump state safeguards on medical marijuana records. Also unknown is what kind of data-gathering can be done by other federal agencies strictly from monitoring financial transactions, especially if someone uses a credit card to pay for a pot purchase. In this age of NSA spying on everything and the feds having an eye on all banking transactions, it will be interesting to see if that information is collected and then shared between agencies, and if someone using a card at a dispensary subsequently finds his name kicked out on a NICS check.

Left unmentioned in most assessments is the inconvenient reminder that the federal government has no power delegated in the Constitution regarding marijuana control -- after all, when they wanted to ban alcohol, they had to get an amendment prohibiting it passed first, something that has never been done in regards to pot. There’s also the unequivocal meaning of “shall not be infringed”...

The reality is the government will exercise power when they think they can get away with it. Socially conservative gun owners would do well to consider that the most dangerous and socially destructive abusers are those who are so addicted to power they will not hesitate to usurp more to feed their insatiable cravings, or to attack any who stand in their way.

UPDATE: See follow-up report "Holder position on pot and banks could end up entrapping gun owners."


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