Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws

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Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws

Many people in Maryland own firearms for proper reasons such as hobby, sport or protection. However, law-abiding gun owners who register to be cannabis patients are considered criminals in the eyes of the federal government.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 prevents cannabis users from purchasing firearms, since it restricts sales to anyone who “is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” As long as THC is seen as a Schedule I controlled substance, gun-owners need to take precautions and make sure they understand the law.


Does Marijuana Show Up on Background Checks?

In Maryland, background checks are required for firearm purchases. However, one’s registration as a medical cannabis patient is private information protected by HIPAA laws. Cannabis patient data is held by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland. Dispensaries also have access to this information, but they cannot release it without patient approval. No one else will know you are a patient unless you reveal your medical cannabis patient status.

Some states do put medical marijuana patient information in a database that shows up on background checks. Pennsylvania releases this information even though their program is also part of the Department of Health.

Green Health Docs employees have contacted the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in the past months about firearms, but have yet to receive a definitive answer regarding marijuana users and firearms. Nonetheless, based on the current law, it should not show up on a background check and there’s nothing indicating that will change in the near future.

 

Beware the New Firearm Transaction Form

Marijuana and Firearm Transaction Form

So why not just omit information about marijuana use if it doesn’t come up on a background check? When purchasing a firearm, prospective buyers fill out ATF Form 4473 which has a recently amended question asking:

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

Lying on this form just to be able to purchase more firearms constitutes perjury and amounts to a felony under federal law. Some people also get around this by purchasing firearms at gun shows, which do not require background checks. While gun law enforcement is currently fairly lax, it’s still a risk that many people would be uncomfortable taking and one that Green Health Docs does not endorse.

 

Second Amendment Protection

What if you’ve already been denied the right to purchase a firearm because of your medical marijuana use? While it seems like something the courts would overrule, someone has already tried. A Nevada cannabis patient got the issue brought all the way to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit but was ruled against. Ultimately, the federal law regarding firearms does not violate a cannabis patient’s 2nd Amendment rights.

 

Will they take your guns?

Medical marijuana and gun laws - confiscate guns

Some states interpret federal law more strictly and require that cannabis patients give up their firearms completely. Hawaii demands that patients confiscate guns within 30 days of becoming legal. For Maryland patients this isn’t an issue since state law doesn’t address prior gun ownership. While they may not require prior owners to hand in their firearms, Federal law does restrict possession of a firearm for cannabis users. This poses a risk if a cannabis patient is ever charged for another crime and the firearm possession comes up.

With Attorney General Jeff Sessions grandstanding about marijuana there’s always a possibility that Maryland becomes as strict as other states. This would be especially unfortunate for the chronic pain patients who would have to resume heavy opioid use if they wanted to keep their firearms and get sufficient pain relief. At the very least, for patients who require the services of caregivers, their caregivers don’t have to worry about their 2nd amendment rights being affected. Even in Pennsylvania, caregivers are not affected by the law as long as they are not patients themselves. Despite the overwhelming public support for medical cannabis, it’s important to stay informed as marijuana laws evolve to avoid legal complications.

Green Health Docs will continue to research the firearm issue and will update our patients and readers as more information becomes available. We also regularly broadcast our educational sessions on Youtube and Facebook. For more information or to learn how to become a legal medical cannabis patient, call or text us at 240-356-1000.

Please note: neither the author nor any employees at Green Health Docs are lawyers or experts in gun laws.

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6 comments on “Medical Marijuana and Gun Laws

  1. Good and timely article. However, there is an update to the PA MMJ program versus the PA State Police issuance of the warning letter sent to all PA MMJ patients. The gun warning letter was issued by the PA State police and essentially stated what was highlighted above; that the possession of a firearm and/or ammunition, meaning those who had already owned the gun(s)/ammunition prior to becomming a PA MMJ patient, was inconsistent with (in violation of), Federal law and therefore any MMJ patient who posesses guns or ammunition in PA “should see an attorney about what to do.” Nothing vague about that… The update to the issue is that the PA Department of Health subsequently has de-linked the PA State Police from accessing the MMJ database. Likely as not due to the same reason that Maryland does not release the MMJ information as it is protected under that same Federal authority. In this case HIPAA, and cannot be released without your permission.

    The blog above also mentions or asserts that one could avoid a background check by purchasing guns at a “Gun Show.” I would beg to differ, though due to the endless variations of rules and regulations from one state to the next (some 50 versions in all), it is not easy to ascertain just what is required and when for buying and selling guns across the land. But in Maryland purchasing a hand-gun at a Gun Show requires the same background check through the Maryland State Police as well as the FBI NCIS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), that is performed at any gun store sale. Rifles and shotguns purchased at Gun Shows or at Walmart or any gun store/dealer in Maryland do not require a background check through the Maryland State Police, however such purchases still require an FBI background check through the NCIS. The issue of no background checks (in Maryland), only comes into play when it is a person to person (private sale). Which could take place at a gun show or between neighbors over the back fence, but private sales are not particularly associated with the so-called “gun show” loophole. Which in Maryland at least, does not exist. It would be better termed a “private sale” loophole. The elimination of which then gets off into an altogether different rights issue.

    The “Final Hit” if you will, is that due to years of inaction by Congress, the confluence of State and Federal laws pertaining to individual’s rights in this country; in this case the 2nd Amendment versus HIPAA, are converging in a high speed head-on collision. It is certainly an opportunity for some bright young counselors out there to make their career out of filing law suits against the various state MMJ programs for HIPAA violations, plus damages and legal costs. Eventually making their arguments all the way to the SCOTUS. And that is precisely what is needed. Since Congress can’t or won’t act in the interest of the Nation, perhaps the SCOTUS will. What is needed is a linchpin issue before the bench which forces the Federal Government to wake up to reality and yes, we the people still rule this Nation, not the bureaucrats who stand to lose billions of tax payers dollars their getting every year for the 81 years of failed cannabis prohibition enforcement. What interesting times we live in.

  2. Very good info as Many people have already owned guns before Medical was introduced, it wouldn’t be fair to make the people turn in their previously bought guns because it is now classified as a Medicine in Maryland, I can see them trying to restrict The purchase of a new gun with the background check, but thank God for HIPPA laws they can’t (at this time!). I bet this relieves a lot of peoples anxieties fearing confiscation of what people already have especially if they have never been violent or convicted of a Felony before and is a law abiding citizen. Thanks for the Blog.

  3. I would like to seek some help from those who are in the know of whats good or not . for issues like ptsd chronic pain anxiety and sleep disorders , I’m a Vietnam vet who,s tired of the va bs.

  4. Uhhhh
    And the State Poilce forms basically make you give up your HIPPA rights and give the DOH access to your medical records.

    It’s a shame. Cannabis patients lose their 2A rights

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