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Medical marijuana or your guns: Missourians may have to choose

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 22, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Voters in Missouri made medical marijuana legal, but many people in the state soon will have to decide between a medical marijuana card or their guns.

That's because federal law doesn't permit legal gun ownership for medical marijuana users.

"All the time, people come in wondering what happens to their guns if they get a medical marijuana card," said Forest Palmer with Hemp Haven in Lee's Summit, one of many CBD stores ready to make the transition to providing medical marijuana.

Gun possession and cannabis is a conversation that continues to come up in the medical marijuana industry and within law enforcement. As Missouri prepares to enact its rollout of the legalization process, state law seems to be something of a gray area but federal precedent is well established.

"There is no exception for medical use of marijuana ...," said Jon Ham, spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Kansas City. "If you are going to use marijuana for medical purposes after it becomes legal in Missouri and you are a firearms owner, you need to transfer the ownership of the firearms."

Three years ago, the ATF added a revision to the required gun-purchase form, which clarifies that marijuana possession and use remains illegal under federal law.

The question includes this "Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

Lying on the form is a federal offense.

While the Missouri concealed carry permit doesn't ask about drug use, Ham said federal law trumps that.

Just having a medical marijuana card is grounds for a gun dealer to deny a gun-purchase application, because it provides a reason to believe the individual uses a controlled substance.

Marijuana remais a Schedule 1 drug with no medical use under federal law and is treated the same as heroin and LSD.

Palmer said there is a gray area, because some people may get a card but do not use marijuana for a variety of reasons. They could be working at a shop or they could be a caregiver.

"I know a lot of people have kind of been taking that approach of, 'I can answer this honestly, because I'm using a legal drug in my state,'" he said. "Therefore, they don't look at it as an issue."

Palmer wished the federal government would adopt that same stance.

"It's because we've had this bias or this stigma with cannabis for so long, and we haven't had that stigma with alcohol or opioids," Palmer said.

Of course, medical marijuana users probably don't need to worry about ATF gun sweeps or house raids.

"The ATF is not changing our enforcement strategy," Ham said. "We're tasked by Congress to go after the most violent criminals in our communities."

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which will oversee medical marijuana in the state, said they will not distribute the database of people who receive a medical marijuana card because it violates patient privacy.

However, the Missouri State Highway Patrol told 41 Action News that they will have limited access to this database.

For example, if a trooper pulls someone over and finds marijuana in the car, the trooper would be able to verify whether the driver has a legal medical marijuana card.

A card won't protect that individual from all possible charges. Being under the influence while operating a motor vehicle or while possessing a gun remains illegal.

Missouri has received 3,438 patient applications and 69 caregiver applications for medical marijuana cards since June 28

It has received 575 pre-filed applications for dispensary facilities, cultivation facilities, and medical marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities.

The state has made nearly $4.1 million in fees so far.