HARRISBURG, Pa. — The federal authorities says grass and weapons don’t combine, and that’s placing gun house owners who use marijuana — and the strongly pro-gun-rights administration of President Donald Trump — in a probably uncomfortable place.
As gun-loving Pennsylvania turns into the newest state to function a medical marijuana program, with the primary dispensary on monitor to start gross sales subsequent month, authorities are warning sufferers that federal regulation bars marijuana customers from having weapons or ammunition.
“They’re going to have to make a choice,” stated John T. Adams, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. “They can have their guns or their marijuana, but not both.”
That’s the official line, however the actuality of how the coverage could be enforced in Pennsylvania and different states is slightly muddier. That consists of the query of whether or not individuals who already personal weapons may need to give up them, as an alternative of simply being prohibited from making new purchases.
The political sensitivity was underscored Friday when Pennsylvania regulators reversed themselves and introduced its registry of medical-pot sufferers won’t be out there, as was beforehand deliberate, by means of the state’s regulation enforcement pc community.
Phil Gruver, knowledgeable auto detailer from Emmaus who acquired a state medical marijuana card in mid-December, is weighing what to do together with his .22-caliber rifle and a handgun he retains for residence protection.
“It’s a violation of my Second Amendment rights,” Gruver stated. “I don’t know of any time anyone’s been using marijuana and going out and committing acts of violence with a gun. Most of the time they just sit on their couch and eat pizza.”
State legal guidelines permitting medical or, extra just lately, leisure use of pot have lengthy been at odds with the federal prohibition on gun possession by these utilizing marijuana. But the federal government has historically taken a hands-off strategy. Since 2014, Congress has forbidden the Department of Justice from spending cash to prosecute individuals who develop, promote and use medical pot.
The image has develop into murkier beneath Trump, a Republican whose lawyer basic, Jeff Sessions, has lengthy denounced the drug. Sessions just lately rescinded a Barack Obama-era coverage that was deferential to states’ permissive marijuana legal guidelines. Now, federal prosecutors in states that permit drug gross sales should determine whether or not to crack down on the marijuana commerce.
It’s not clear what impression the brand new coverage may have on gun house owners who use hashish as drugs, or even how many individuals match the invoice. Nor is it clear whether or not any individuals who use legally obtained medical marijuana have been prosecuted for proudly owning a gun, though the existence of medical marijuana registries in some states, together with Pennsylvania, has some sufferers involved.
More than 800,000 weapons are bought or transferred in Pennsylvania yearly, and greater than 10,000 individuals within the state have signed up for medical marijuana. The registry change on Friday makes it a lot much less probably the state’s medical marijuana customers might be flagged when going by means of a federal gun gross sales background verify.
A spokeswoman for Dave Freed, the brand new U.S. lawyer in Harrisburg, stated solely that felony investigations and prosecutions “will be based on a fair and transparent fact-intensive inquiry of individual cases.” State police stated it’s as much as prosecutors to determine when to deliver a case.
The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has left little question the place it stands. Last yr, the ATF spelled out the marijuana prohibition in boldface sort on gun buy varieties.
“Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medical purposes … is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition,” ATF spokeswoman Janice L. Kemp stated in an e mail to The Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department referred questions on medical marijuana and weapons enforcement to native federal prosecutors and a current memo from Sessions that doesn’t particularly tackle the difficulty.
In Ohio, which has approved a medical marijuana program, the workplace of the U.S. lawyer for the northern a part of the state, Justin Herdman, has stated Sessions’ steerage gained’t change his case-by-case strategy.
The gun-ownership ban has withstood at the least one authorized problem. An appeals courtroom in San Francisco, rejecting a problem on Second Amendment grounds, stated in 2016 that Congress fairly concluded marijuana and different medicine increase the danger of unpredictable conduct.
Some state and native officers, notably in regulation enforcement, have sought to crack down.
William Bryson, chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, advised state lawmakers in December that individuals who use marijuana for medical or leisure functions must be required to have a designation on their driver’s licenses. That would make it simpler, he stated, for police to implement the ban.
And final month, a police chief in Hawaii publicized after which shortly rescinded a directive that medical marijuana sufferers had to surrender their handguns. Two individuals turned of their weapons.
But marijuana activists predict a backlash ought to federal prosecutors start going after gun house owners who use legally obtained medical marijuana.