A controversial part of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program just became more difficult to enforce. Under the state’s medical use law, passed in 2016, registered patients lose their gun rights once enrolled in the program. But if Pennsylvania removes medical marijuana users from police computers, determining who should and who shouldn’t have a gun gets harder. Yet the question remains. Will the move help restore medical cannabis patients gun rights?
Do Medical Marijuana Patients Lose Their Gun Rights?
Many people would chafe at the idea of their private health data ending up on some kind of government database. But in many states with medical marijuana programs, patients do have to register with the state.
From there, the state can make those lists available to various government agencies, including law enforcement. And that brings us to an oft-forgot consequence of becoming a legal medical cannabis patient.
If you’re a legal cannabis user, you’ve effectively surrendered your right to bear arms. The Second Amendment is a right guaranteed by the federal government, which considers cannabis use a serious crime.
For Uncle Sam, being a cannabis user prohibits you from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law. And it doesn’t matter whether your cannabis use is medical or recreational.
If a federally-licensed firearms dealer becomes aware of your cannabis use, the government mandates that they refuse to sell you a weapon or ammunition.
Obviously, if your name is on an official list of registered, legal cannabis users, it’s very easy for gun retailers or law enforcement to flag you.
And this isn’t just a hypothetical possibility. In Hawaii, the Honolulu Police Department sent letters to cannabis patients with registered firearms. The letters gave them 30 days to surrender their guns. In Oregon, county officials tried to deny cannabis patients who wanted to renew their handgun permits.
And if you’re a cardholder in Pennsylvania, “you’ll be flagged,” state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski told The Philidelphia Inquirer. “It might be a good idea to contact an attorney about how best to dispose of [your] firearms,” Tarkowski added.
Pennsylvania Removes Medical Marijuana Users From Police Computers
Upwards of 10,000 people have already signed up to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. And it was in response to their outrage over the fact that the state was sharing patient registries with law enforcement that Pennsylvania removes medical marijuana users from police computers.
Before the change, roughly 38,000 law enforcement and public safety officials had access to the state JNET database, according to WBNG.
Going forward, however, police will have to check someone’s medical marijuana ID card. That will be the only way to verify who is in the program and who isn’t.
Additionally, removing patient information from the JNET database will decrease medical cannabis users’ chances of ending up flagged on a background check. And that could mean it will soon be easier for cannabis patients to purchase firearms.
Patient outrage over losing gun rights simply for accessing legally prescribed medicine is certainly a good enough reason for state officials to remove them from the JNET system.
But a look at recent political donations from the NRA and other gun lobby groups could also explain the sudden change of course in Pennsylvania.
According to the Washington Post, Pennsylvania members of Congress currently in office have received $155,600 from the NRA. And that total excludes donations from other gun rights groups that easily top $100,000.
Historically, the NRA has aggressively opposed any measures to expand background check requirements for gun purchases.