Guns and Medical Marijuana: How Does Having a Minnesota Marijuana Card Affect Your Right to Bear Arm
“It’s Just Tragic”: Medical Marijuana and the Right to Bear Arms
Important Note: While we fact-checked the accuracy of this article, its content should not be considered legal advice or an adequate substitution for a consultation with an attorney. If you think your rights as a tenant are violated, we encourage you to seek professional legal counsel. Click here for a list of Minnesota attorneys specializing in marijuana law.
With the imminent arrival of marijuana in flower form to the North Star State’s dispensaries, the number of Minnesotans who treat their qualifying conditions with medical marijuana is expected to see tremendous growth. Unfortunately, many of those newcomers are going to be in for a rude surprise when their newfound right to relief runs up against one of the very first rights Americans won for themselves: the right to bear arms.
Marijuana in flower form is more affordable than the various liquids and pills that were previously the only legal forms in which to buy medical cannabis under the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). That lowered cost is expected to grow the patient registry, which is currently over 35,000, by three or four times.
And unfortunately, many of those new medical marijuana patients are going to discover what State Representative Rod Hamilton, of Mountain Lake, discovered: Thanks to the federal government, medical marijuana and gun ownership don’t go together.
We’ll get into the messy details below, but first, don’t lose sight of this bright spot in the no man’s land between Federal and State marijuana laws: The Justice Department has not been prosecuting individuals or entities who comply with their respective states’ marijuana laws since 2013.
Federal prosecutors aren’t eager to waste their limited resources on cases that aren’t likely to end in convictions. And pursuing a case in opposition to a state’s laws means 1) Federal prosecutors can’t rely on shared resources at the state level and 2) the conflicting sets of laws can muddy the water, lessening the chances of conviction.
Another bit of good news is that those who do have to choose between medical relief and access to firearms are beginning to come together in an effort to create change. And if the story of medical marijuana has taught us anything, it’s that motivated people who come together to fight for their rights can create a whole lot of change.
“In the eyes of the federal government, we're all felons”
Almost two years ago, Hamilton was prescribed medical marijuana to treat his Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. But after being enrolled in the state’s patient registry by his neurologist, Hamilton’s gun permit renewal was rejected.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance, making it equivalent to heroin or cocaine. Like other schedule 1 drugs, the government considers marijuana to have no medicinal value, but to have a high potential for abuse. Consequently, the federal government bars anyone who uses a schedule 1 drug from owning a firearm.
“In the eyes of the federal government, we're all felons, and it's just tragic,” Hamilton told the Star Tribune.
A Difficult Choice, and Either Way You Lose: The Second Amendment or Natural Relief Through Medical Marijuana?
When Hamilton learned what his new status as a registered medical marijuana patient meant for his now defunct status as a gun owner, he decided to forgo his medicine for his guns.
He never purchased any medical marijuana, and does not plan to renew his patient registration when it expires this August.
"Do I feel like I've missed out? Absolutely I do. My doctors think this would provide me some relief," Hamilton told the Star Tribune. "I am prioritizing, right, wrong, or otherwise, my Second Amendment rights over using, in the eyes of Minnesota, a lawful medical product."
It’s a choice many more Minnesotans are expected to have to make once marijuana flower is available here.
"The registry is going to grow a lot," said State Representative Jeremy Munson, of Lake Crystal. "All of those people will be denied the right to get a shotgun in the fall to go hunting."
Creating a Critical Mass: Lobbying For Gun Rights For Medical Marijuana Users in Minnesota
One strategy for reconciling these conflicting rights that has been suggested is reclassifying marijuana at the state level as a schedule 2 drug. That would mean the state recognizes marijuana as having medical value, even though it also has potential for abuse, and even though the federal government would not recognize the legitimacy of the state’s reclassification.
Another strategy gaining momentum has come from a loose coalition of marijuana advocates and gun rights supporters, who are lobbying the State Legislature to petition the federal government for an exception for Minnesota to its Section 1 classification of marijuana.
One of the state legislators who has voiced support for reclassifying marijuana at the state level, State Senator Scott Dibble, of Minneapolis, acknowledges that neither strategy would actually lead to any real, immediate change. .
The federal government is not likely to grant an exception for a single state, nor would state-level reclassification have any impact on federal level gun laws.
“But it’s a start,” Dibble said of state-level reclassification, “and it creates a critical mass.” If Minnesota reclassified marijuana, it would join several other states who have diverged from the federal government’s classification. And if Minnesota petitioned the government for an exception to its drug scheduling, other states may follow suit.
Critical Mass Leading to a Change in Federal Law Enforcement: It Wouldn’t be the First Time
And it is critical mass that creates change in conflicts between states and the federal government. Consider some of the events in the history of medical marijuana in the U.S.
When California voters opted for medical marijuana legalization in 1996, it had been sixty years since marijuana had been in effect banned everywhere in the U.S., and the federal government made efforts to limit the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana programs.
Over the next decade, marijuana of course remained illegal at the federal level, but fourteen states and the District of Columbia all made moves towards establishing medical marijuana programs.
By 2009, the federal government was advising federal prosecutors to only pursue marijuana-related action against individuals and entities who were in violation of their respective state laws.
Just a little more than 10 years after that, and now 36 states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana programs.
From 60 years of complete prohibition to legalization in most of the country after just 25 years, all because a critical mass of states began the ball rolling. If the past is any indication, gun owners may not have to choose between their right to bear arms and their inability to bear suffering much longer.
Indeed, there have also been efforts to effect change in marijuana and gun laws at the federal level. Most recently, U.S. Representative Rodney Davis introduced the Gun Rights and Marijuana Act, which would explicitly protect gun ownership rights for medical marijuana patients.
While Davis’ legislation isn’t the first bill to be introduced that sought to reconcile this problematic legal conflict, and it wouldn’t be the first to fail if it does indeed go unpassed, it is just one more sign that a critical mass is on the way.
Until Federal Law Catches Up with the 21st Century, We’ll be Here for You
But until that critical mass actually results in change, Minnesotans who want to legally relieve their suffering and exercise their gun rights will have to choose.
And while we can’t make that choice for you, we will be here for you no matter what you decide.
We’re working on building an informational library to keep you informed on all of the latest developments in Minnesota’s medical marijuana market. Subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email in the field below, and you’ll be among the first to know about breaking news in regards to all of your marijuana-related rights.
And if your condition should become unbearable without the relief of medical marijuana before federal laws catch up with state laws? Well we’ll be here for you then, too.
Reserve an Evaluation Appointment for a Minnesota Marijuana Card Today!
If and when you decide the time is right for you to explore medical marijuana, reserve an evaluation with one of our caring and knowledgeable doctors. Just as soon as we’re cleared to do so, we’ll book you a telemedicine appointment.
You’ll discuss your condition with your marijuana doctor via a telemedicine appointment over your computer or smartphone, and decide together what the best path is for you.
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-6671, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
And don’t forget to check out Minnesota Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.