Legalization of medical and recreational marijuana have been spreading across the states, leading to increased struggles between state and federal legislation. But what does this mean for responsible gun owners? U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney, Justin McShane, breaks down the latest in Pennsylvania law for marijuana use in regards to possessing and owning a firearm.
As more and more people get diagnosed with ailments that call for medical marijuana, and as more care providers are prescribing medical marijuana, this matter comes up more and more in Pennsylvania. Of course, now we have a regime in place that does allow for permissive medical marijuana dispensation under Pennsylvania law. However, that doesn’t trump federal law. It’s still illegal. In fact, it’s a Schedule 1 narcotic, and is illegal to possess under federal law.
Where the tension comes into place has to do with the provision of the United States code that makes it illegal for an unlawful user of or someone who is addicted to “a controlled substance” including medical marijuana. That is where the tension is. “Unlawful user”, some people read that hopefully and wishfully, and say, “Well no. I’m a lawful user. I have a medical marijuana card.” Not in the eyes of the ATF or the federal government. That doesn’t work. In fact, it is one hundred percent proof that you are someone who should not possess, use, or own a firearm, and that’s a problem. There is nothing in Pennsylvania law, nothing that Pennsylvania can write that will overcome that.
I understand that it is our current governor, Governor Wolf’s desire to not have people have to pick between medical marijuana and their right to use, possess, or own a firearm. However, that is not his call. It is a federal enforcement related issue. This also extends to “caregivers”, as they are called, under the medical marijuana statute. Those are the people who are authorized to pick up the marijuana and transfer it, drive it to whoever the target patient is. That’s because you are in possession of an illegal substance, meaning marijuana. So, caregivers, because you get a card too, that’s going to be very bad proof that you can’t use, possess, or own a firearm.
It is a very harsh choice that one has to make between medicine and firearms. However, it hasn’t come to a head right now because we are a point-of-contact state. Meaning PICS, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System has not been populated with any of the patients that are on medical marijuana. That might change with a different administration or federal edict that comes down from the ATF, but right now, it is very dicey and unfortunate for those who have medical marijuana or even the caregivers.
That is the unfortunate state of events in Pennsylvania and all over wherever there is medical marijuana because it is not just a Pennsylvania thing. It’s a Colorado thing. It’s an Oregon thing. It’s a California thing. There are a lot of states that are struggling with this right now. We are not the only ones, but that’s the federal tension, the federal position I just presented to you.