Under a new Illinois proposal, people who qualify for medical marijuana would have to give up the right to own a gun — even if they have a permit or I.D. This new idea surfaced as Illinois officials determine how best to implement the state's new marijuana policy. Qualifying patients will also probably be required to fork over $150 per year and comply with a background check.
The proposal presents some interesting questions. Are state officials really afraid that medical marijuana users present a danger greater than, say, alcoholics? Are people willing to give up their Second Amendment rights to score some of the green stuff? Will this become something that finally unites pro-pot left-wingers and pro-guns right-wingers? Maybe — but likely not. As the Chicago Tribune reports:
Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said the NRA takes no position on the issue but that the rule seems to be an attempt to interpret federal law. A U.S. Department of Justice firearm application form asks if the buyer is "an unlawful user" of marijuana or other controlled substances.
Illinois regulations make clear that pot possession is still prohibited by federal law, and the state denies liability for damages arising from the program, including federal prosecution.
"It presents a novel legal conundrum," Vandermyde said. "The courts are going to have to reconcile it."
On Jan. 1, Illinois became the 20th state to allow medical marijuana. But just because it's the law, doesn't mean any specific regulations are in effect. Agencies get 120 days to write rules for the new law, which includes 22 pot farms and 60 dispensaries distributed by population. It will then take about four months to produce the first marijuana crop. About 15,000-20,000 patients are expected to participate in the state's four-year trial pot plan.
So have any other states with legal pot policies had gun issues related to medical marijuana? It doesn't appear that there's been any recent big connections so far. However, California law cautions state gun owners/medical pot users:
"This should not affect current gun owners. Although California law does not prohibit medical marijuana users from having guns, using a gun in connection with an offense such as cultivation or possession for sale can result in additional criminal charges. Users are advised to keep their guns in a location that is separate from their marijuana."
The public may not feel the effects of new marijuana laws for years to come, but with even President Obama saying he thinks marijuana is "no more dangerous than alcohol," we can expect to see many more policy changes in the near future. Illinois' new rules are set for public comment on Feb. 7 and will then be submitted to a legislative panel in April, so we won't know the outcome for a while. Until then, this commenter on the original Chicago Tribune article summed up the problem quite appropriately: