It should come to no surprise that the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) have issued a position statement in relation to Pennsylvania’s new card carrying medicinal marijuana users. Once again, individuals who seek to use marijuana for medicinal purposes are forced to choose between the comfort they find in medicine or their constitutional rights.
Marijuana is still a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, which means that regardless of what state law says, at the federal level, it is still illegal to possess. Medicinal marijuana has grown in popularity since California legalized it in 1996 with a majority of states legalizing it in some form. However, the federal government has not taken any action to legalize it for medicinal purposes and DEA recently declined to reclassify it.
Medical marijuana card holders in Pennsylvania should take note of the following. It has been ATF’s position since 2011, that if an individual is merely in possession of a medical marijuana card, they are prohibited from purchasing a firearm. This is based on the theory that the transferor would have “reasonable cause to believe” that the person is an “unlawful user or addicted to a controlled substance.” In other words, it could be inferred that you fit that category by merely possessing a license, regardless of whether you obtained it for actual use or a political statement.
The statement also tells individuals that “[i]t is unlawful for you to attempt to purchase a firearm under Federal law and you will be denied during your Pennsylvania State Police background check, due to prohibitions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3),” which would seem to suggest that the information of medical marijuana users will be contained in the PSP’s central repository of information and/or sent to NICS.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I have not researched the medical marijuana law to see if that is the case or whether there are HIPAA concerns, etc., this is just a theory.
The PSP also states that an individual is unable to lawfully obtain a License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”) and that “[t]he sheriff should not process your application if you truthfully indicate to the sheriff that you are the holder of a Medical Marijuana Card.” Moreover, the PSP continue to say “you will be denied during the Pennsylvania State Police background check, which occurs as part of the LTC application or renewal process,” again suggesting information pertaining to medical marijuana users are retained by the PSP and/or transmitted to NICS.
Perhaps most interesting about the PSP’s statement is this
It is unlawful for you to keep possession of any firearms which you owned or had in your possession prior to obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card, and you should consult an attorney about the best way to dispose of your firearms. Again, this is due to prohibitions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).
Essentially, PSP is contending that you are an unlawful user of a controlled substance if you obtain a medical marijuana card. However, possession of a card does not automatically equate to the use of the substance. So for individuals who seek to obtain a medical marijuana card for a political statement, be aware of the PSP’s position on the matter. That is one that will eventually require litigation.
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