The town drunk can buy firearms. So can someone who has been involuntarily placed in a mental hospital for a short stay. But anyone who wants to treat Crohn’s disease with medical marijuana is forbidden from owning a gun.
Pennsylvania is preparing to roll out a statewide program in early 2018 that will provide medicinal cannabis products to patients suffering from 17 serious health conditions.
But some sick people will have to make a difficult decision: Is taking the medicine worth surrendering what gun-owning advocates see as an enshrined constitutional right?
“It’s hypocritical,” said lawyer Andrew Sacks, the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee.
“You can be an opioid addict, or buy a bottle of rum, drink it and go to a store and buy one,” Sacks said. “But a person who is registered as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania, and has a very small dosage of THC, can’t own a gun to protect themselves or hunt.”
A state police spokesman strongly suggested that patients also consider the consequences of holding on to any guns bought before enrolling in the medical marijuana program .
“It’s unlawful to keep possession of firearms obtained prior to registering,” Ryan Tarkowski said. “The Pennsylvania State Police is not in the business of offering legal advice, but it might be a good idea to contact an attorney about how best to dispose of their firearms.”
Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana in some form.
But under federal law, all forms of marijuana remain strictly forbidden. The DEA considers it a Schedule 1 drug, on par with heroin and LSD.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition across the nation. ATF spokeswoman Cherie R. Duvall-Jones said any use of marijuana is a disqualifier.
“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law,” said Duvall-Jones.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that the federal prohibition does not violate the Second Amendment.
The NRA has remained silent on the issue. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.