Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Patients Worrying About Gun Rights

If you’re a firearm owner in Pennsylvania or are thinking of buying one and receive a prescription for medical marijuana card from the state, you may have to think again.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is currently in action, but people who want to use that program are being forced to make a difficult choice. Medical marijuana access or gun rights? If you live in Pennsylvania, you make have to choose between the two.

Even worse, if you own a gun and become approved as a medical marijuana patient, you become a criminal if you don’t discard your weapon, reported the local The Morning Call.

The contradiction is because medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania but federally it is not. And it’s the federal law that dictates who can buy and possess guns. The federal law bans sales and possession of guns to someone, who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” Marijuana is still listed as a Controlled Substance I classification.

Now, gun buyers must fill out a federal form that asks about marijuana use and notes users’ applications will be denied.

Checking the system

Pennsylvania state troopers
Pennsylvania State Police troopers line up outside of the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pa. via WESA

Lying on a gun application is a federal felony. And the background check system in Pennsylvania will most likely catch you. Furthermore, state police do checks and know who has been approved by the state for medical marijuana use.

What state police don’t know, though, is who already owns guns. While it does background checks for purchases and concealed carry permits, it doesn’t keep the information, state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski told The Morning Call on Tuesday.

“We don’t know who has what guns out there. There’s no list of who owns guns.”

So medical marijuana patients shouldn’t worry about a letter asking them to turn over their firearm. But that doesn’t mean they won’t get in trouble for possession if it becomes known. Tarkowski said gun owners should consult an attorney. State police also recently published guidance on on the “firearms information page” of its website,

Pennsylvania is still working it out.

There haven’t been attempts in other states to make people who own guns give them up if they become approved to use medical marijuana, said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

“In most cases, where localities have said they were going to enforce, it was met with such resistance that these localities tended to drop that request,” he said Tuesday.

“I think that some people out there are probably concerned about it.  I’m not exactly sure how warranted that concern is.”

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association will discuss the issue at its meeting next month, Executive Director Richard Long stated.

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law creates conflicts

Pennsylvania sees struggle between medical marijuana and gun rights
Medical marijuana users in Pennsylvania cannot buy or possess a gun because marijuana still is illegal under federal law. via The Morning Call

There are 17 health conditions that can be treated with marijuana including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those conditions are common in veterans. However, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, veterans cannot use their veterans’ medical benefits to obtain marijuana.

They can pursue medical marijuana treatment outside the Department of Veterans Affairs health system. Above all, it would be at their cost and seeing multiple physicians could make their care more complicated.

VA physicians can discuss medical marijuana use with patients. Also, they can record patients’ marijuana use for treatment planning. On the other hand, VA staff cannot recommend medical marijuana. Nor can they complete paperwork for veterans to participate in the state program. VA pharmacies can’t even fill medical marijuana prescriptions.

However, more states are legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It’s time for the federal government to properly look at how its drug and gun laws intersect.

Moving Forward

On Thursday, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions annulled an Obama-era policy, giving federal law enforcement the right to clamp down on already legal state marijuana operations. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was quick to denounce that change. He vowed to do what he could to protect the state’s medical marijuana program and its patients.

Medical marijuana users who can get permission from their physician through state programs shouldn’t be considered illegal. Their use shouldn’t interfere with other rights.