It’s a new year and medical marijuana is finding its way into the Keystone State. That’s not particularly remarkable since it’s a trend which has taken root in plenty of states around the nation. But Pennsylvania gun owners are now facing the same conundrum threatening to plague their fellow Second Amendment enthusiasts in other states where either medical or recreational pot has been legalized. The Pennsylvania State Police are telling everyone with both a firearm and a medical marijuana card to prepare to find a way to “dispose” of their guns. (CBS Pittsburgh)
Pennsylvania State Police officials are stirring up protest among Pennsylvania gun-owners who are also potential medical marijuana patients.
“It disturbs me greatly to see the Pennsylvania State Police put on their website references to federal law while ignoring the fact that it is legal under Pennsylvania law,” says Patrick Nightingale of Greenfield.
Nightingale is a gun owner, a criminal defense attorney, and a recent applicant for a medical marijuana card.
What disturbs him is a State Police statement on their website, citing federal law, telling medical marijuana card holders, “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.”
Rather than waiting for some sort of pronouncement from either the Governor or the Justice Department in Washington, the state troopers have posted a warning to gun owners who are seeking medical marijuana cards. That seems like an unusual step, particularly since neither Governor Wolf nor the state’s Attorney General have weighed in on the question yet.
So here’s the first question to tackle. Are the state police going to be enforcing state law or federal law when the two are in direct conflict? It’s true that the cops aren’t supposed to ignore violations of the law whenever they see it, but usually, a federal violation either lines up with a matching state law or falls under an area where the state’s code is silent. As we’ve seen in other states already, this marijuana legalization question is something of a unique beast.
There’s also a common sense angle to this. It’s not illegal for adults to continue to own a firearm if they possess or drink alcohol, providing they’re not going out and engaging in drunken mayhem and violence as a result. Why would the state treat marijuana any differently if it’s been reclassified along the same lines as booze? Granted, that applies mostly to the states with recreational pot use, but we could apply the same question to prescription medicines. If your doctor prescribes some sort of opioid for you, you clearly shouldn’t be either driving your car or firing your weapons while under the influence. But simply having the drugs in your possession legally doesn’t strip you of your Second Amendment rights. If marijuana is now a “prescription drug” under Pennsylvania law, confiscating guns seems to be a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it?
While we probably don’t need to drop yet another hot potato in the Supreme Court’s lap right now, it seems that they’re going to have to chime in on this one sooner or later. The court has been reluctant to take a stand on Second Amendment rights since Heller, but this is a state vs federal conflict that’s crying out for a definitive resolution.