Smoking guns or smoking trees?

Ohio residents may have to choose between marijuana and gun ownership

By Sarah Sidlow


Folks in Ohio may soon have to choose between the green and the machine.

OK that was lame. What are we talking about?

According to guidance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, gun dealers are prohibited from providing guns or ammunition to anyone they believe uses marijuana—even for medical purposes.

Why? Because marijuana, whether or not it’s obtained legally on the state-level, is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Which means technically it’s still illegal. And anyone who applies to purchase a gun is required to sign a form promising they are not “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

Which means you can’t have your gun and smoking too.

For some people, the law is the law is the law. Meaning: if folks are required to go through the legal channels of owning and operating firearms, they should also be subject to abide by federal drug codes. Surely no one can argue that being high makes you a safer gun user, right?

And speaking of the law, this battle between federal marijuana law and gun ownership is playing out in other parts of the country, too.

In Honolulu Hawaii, police last month purportedly told residents who carried medical marijuana cards that they had 30 days to turn in their firearms to authorities. Just doing my job, ma’am. And in Nevada, a federal circuit court of appeals ruled that the federal ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana users does not violate the Second Amendment.

Plus, they say, there’s a reason marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug—the definition of which is a drug that has “high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns.”

But at the heart of this issue, intellectually, is marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. On the state level, marijuana IS considered to have medical use. A lot of it, actually. Industry experts have estimated as many as a quarter of Ohio’s population has a condition that qualifies them for medical marijuana as a treatment for pain, anxiety or other issues commonly addressed with marijuana treatment.

In this case, some argue, marijuana actually may make someone a “better” gun user—in the same way a hunter would take painkillers for aching joints before going hunting.

Plus, others argue, there’s no similar regulation regarding the purchase of firearms and the use of alcohol—a substance that is arguably way more dangerous than marijuana, person for person.


It’s still illegal

Weed and Guns are a Recipe for Disaster

By Missy Mae Walters


While it is a fact medical marijuana has been legalized here in Ohio, I find it disturbing individuals holding prescriptions would be surprised to learn they can neither obtain or keep a concealed carry (CCW) license while under medical treatment. Marijuana is still classified by our federal government as an illegal substance. For those who are seeking help for pain management, there are ten times as many who want to use it to get high.

The right to bear arms is fundamental to the sovereignty we all seek and deserve as citizens of the United States, but there are in fact times when it should be illegal for someone to be packing heat.  For example, it is illegal to consume alcohol and carry a gun even if the person holds a CCW. Alcohol does cause the behavior of those consuming it to become irrational and unpredictable.  Marijuana has similar effects. The issue is, the use of medical marijuana is not an every so often kind of drug. Those using it for treatment of a condition are doing so daily, making impairment a daily occurrence.

Whether you have first-hand experience with marijuana or not, I think we all have witnessed someone who has, and can agree having the drug in your system does not make someone make the best decisions. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the short-term effects of marijuana as altering the senses, making problem-solving and thinking difficult, changing one’s mood, and when larger doses are taken, causing hallucination, even leading to psychosis.

When it comes down to it, in addition to the issues associated with impairment affecting mental stability, the federal government does have certain protocols in place when applying to a license.

The CCW application, aka Form 4473, which every person seeking a license is required to fill out, provides a specific question for the purpose of weeding out (no pun intended) applicants. Under the discrepancy of the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Question 11e, asks: “Are you the unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

Now, yes, I can understand how the interpretation of this question is confusing.

When your state’s voters have passed the lawful usage of medical marijuana than you can actually answer Q 11e with a ‘no’ since you are not an “unlawful user” because in fact you are not breaking the law. This is why the ATF has added a warning to Form 4473 stating that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Make sure to read the entire form or, if you are a marijuana user who answers, “No,” you could be charged with falsifying the form down the road.

According to the Pew Research Center, gun owners comprise of nearly 3-in-10 adults in America. This ends up amounting to around 42 percent of households with possession of at least one gun. As of early 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s office quoted a total of 159,000 CCW permits – the highest number since the state began issuing concealed carry licenses in 2004.

With a list of 21 approved conditions in Ohio for medical marijuana, there are going to be some pretty unhappy CCW permit holders here soon. While the State of Ohio will have a database of all medical marijuana card holders via the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, it will not be public. On the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program website, it states all marijuana patients are required to register with the Board of Pharmacy and must update registration annually.

To add another layer to this debate and cause even more confusion, a story broke last week referencing the State of Ohio’s use of an “honor system” when filing the necessary applications for concealed carry. That’s right, you can actually have a medical permit to use, but lie on your application when asked about it.

After hearing this, did anyone else think our state government officials had been smoking something? I sure did. Now let’s get real folks. The “honor system”, really?

People are human and, despite their best intentions, most will not do what is right when no one is looking, or there is not a check and balance in place.

The medical marijuana registry is not public, but I guarantee you the state government could obtain these lists and be able to cross reference CCW lists from local sheriffs’ departments. With the medical marijuana train planning to go full speed by September 2018, direction needs to be issued by the legislature, sooner rather than later, to protect our citizens with something better than just an “honor system”.

What’s pot got to do with it?

It’s about punishing pot-smokers, not protecting us from guns.

By Victor DeLaine

Marijuana should be legal.  That means not only that its use should carry no risk of fines or jail, but also that you should not have to forfeit your right to bear arms if you choose to smoke it.

Most people are already persuaded of the syllogism’s major premise, that marijuana should be legal.  Polls show majorities favoring legalization in every state.  According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 52 percent of Ohioans support legalization.  Nationwide, 61 percent favor it.  Blue states are on board; in Maryland 58 percent, in Illinois 66 percent, and in Washington 78 percent. Red states are often stronger proponents of legalization than blue ones.  Thus, in North Carolina, it’s 80 percent, in New Hampshire 62 percent, and in bright red Texas 83 percent.  If democracy means majority rule, then marijuana will soon be legal everywhere.  Its use is a crime with no victims, it’s the least dangerous recreational drug, according to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, and legalizing it could strip crime syndicates of a big source of income.

So why take guns away from people who smoke marijuana?  One hears two arguments, but neither one holds water.

First, there is the argument that using marijuana so dulls the senses and so compromises a person’s judgment that no user can be trusted with a gun.  It’s an empirical, testable supposition, and research suggests it’s untrue.  There are no studies about marijuana’s effect on gun usage, but many studies have analyzed marijuana’s effect on driving.  A 2017 study by PLOS One, in France, found that those using marijuana are 1.65 times likelier than sober drivers to cause a fatal accident, while those using a comparable amount of alcohol are 17.8 times likelier.   Alcohol is far worse.

One would expect a similar disproportion when it comes to gun use, yet it is marijuana, not alcohol, that the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms)  says would automatically disqualify someone from owning a gun.  The BATF’s logic would require that, if we indeed strip marijuana users of their 2nd Amendment rights, we must also take that right away from users of alcohol, users of insulin, users of caffeinated coffee, and every other person whose dietary habits or medical needs involve a food or substance that affects one’s mood or alertness.  A net fine enough to capture a fish as small and harmless as marijuana would have to catch practically all the fish in the sea.

The second argument one hears against letting potsmokers own guns is that marijuana, despite its purported legalization in some localities, is still illegal at the federal level.  By the very act of obtaining an illegal substance, the logic goes, marijuana users have proven themselves lawless and, therefore, unworthy of gun ownership.

It is true, of course, that marijuana is still illegal throughout the US today.  The Constitution says that federal laws override local ones. Marijuana remains illegal today, even in Colorado, and even when prescribed by a doctor.  But illegality doesn’t make it wrong.  Lawyers distinguish between things that are bad in themselves and things we deem bad simply because they are prohibited.  Thus, for most people, stealing is not only illegal but also immoral, whereas jaywalking, while outlawed, carries no moral taint.  Marijuana is like jaywalking, not like stealing.  It may be illegal, but it is not inherently bad, and its usage therefore does not reflect on the user’s supposed lawlessness the way stealing would.

But, that said, the hoopla over the decriminalization and open, retail sales in Colorado and elsewhere has led many people to believe that marijuana is, in fact, legal.  Some fraction of those reading this very newspaper probably did not realize that pot is still illegal in Colorado.  That being so, the suggestion that marijuana users are presumptively more inclined to lawbreaking than the rest of us has lost almost all its force.  Maybe people who knowingly break the law really are less trustworthy citizens, but too many pot-smokers today do not even realize it is illegal.

The right to bear arms, unlike the right, to say, to drive a car or to get a professional license, is a constitutional one.  The Founders thought that right important enough to give it the second position in the Bill of Rights.  The idea that a lawful practice should cost you that right is therefore one of which voters should be skeptical.  Mind you, sensible people have reasonable concerns about how easy it is to buy guns, and everyone should welcome limitations that inquire into a buyer’s mental fitness to own one.  But the BATF’s rule against marijuana users paints with too broad a brush.  That rule is not about protecting people from the abuse of guns.  It’s just a clever way to keep punishing users after marijuana becomes legal, as we all know it will,.


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