Dush Warns Right to Own Firearms Will No Longer Apply to Medical Marijuana Card Holders

HARRISBURG, Pa. – With Pennsylvania now preparing to issue medical marijuana cards by the end of year, Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson/Indiana) is warning future card holders that they will no longer be able to purchase or possess firearms according to federal law.

“Although this was brought up several times during last year’s debate to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, most people do not realize that in 2011 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) issued a warning that because cannabis is illegal at the federal level, even for medical purchases, patients cannot possess guns,” said Dush. “The biggest shock will most likely come when these otherwise law-abiding citizens attempt to purchase a firearm, or are caught in possession of a gun, and have no idea that they are breaking multiple federal laws.”

Federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the same as heroin and LSD and other hallucinogens, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The latest version of the Federal Form 4473 (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form which is required to be filled out when purchasing a firearm from a licensed gun dealer) was revised earlier this year to include the following question/warning in Section 11(e):

“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.”

A dealer cannot sell a firearm to anyone answering “yes” to this question.

Additionally, the Ninth Circuit Court recently affirmed in a 3-0 decision that medical marijuana card holders have no Second Amendment right to own firearms. Although this circuit court is the most overturned in the nation and only has jurisdiction in several western states, federal law remains fairly clear.

As result of the federal court’s ruling, police in Honolulu, HI recently sent letters to 30 medical cannabis patients warning them to hand over their guns in 30 days. In response to local criticism, the Honolulu Police Department has reportedly stopped telling medical marijuana users to turn in their guns and returned firearms to two patients who had voluntarily surrendered them. However, the department will continue to deny gun permits to anyone on the state’s list of medical marijuana patients.

“With a medical marijuana facility starting in my district, I’m also concerned in respect to how law enforcement at the federal and state level will deal with the businesses, caregivers and other employees of these facilities if there is a need to respond to a situation involving both medical marijuana and a firearm,” Dush added. “Once the enforcement officers are there and in the presence of the products, will they be required to comply with their oath of office and take action? The law we deal with most in Harrisburg is the law of unintended consequences, and these are some of the issues I and others spoke of regarding this new law as it was going through the process of being adopted.”

In a recent Lehigh Valley Live news article, Major Scott C. Price, state police director of the Bureau of Records and Identification, indicated that the ATF has sent notice to all Pennsylvania gun dealers that they are not permitted to sell firearms to registered medical marijuana patients.

“As a non-attorney, the only recommendation that I can give to the more than 6,000 patients registered to receive medical cannabis is to make informed decisions,” Dush concluded. “Federal law, and in most cases state laws, are clear that mixing possession of medical marijuana and firearms comes with heavy penalties, including hefty fines and jail time. It’s really that simple. I don’t know of anyone who wants to become a judicial test case and spend thousands of dollars appealing rulings, or rely on the prosecutorial discretion of their local district attorney or law enforcement to determine the correct legal application.”

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