Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Medical Marijuana Users ‘Have 30 Days’ To Turn In Their Guns, Honolulu Police Say
The Honolulu Police Department is ordering legal cannabis patients to “voluntarily surrender” any guns they own because pot is still considered an illegal drug under federal law.
The initiative continues three months after Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business.
“Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition,” Honolulu police Chief Susan Ballard wrote in a Nov. 13 letter to one medical marijuana card holder. “If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department or otherwise transfer ownership.”
In the letter, Ballard cites Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7 (a) as the reason for the move. That section reads, “No person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition.”
Federal law prohibits an “unlawful user” of any controlled substance from possessing firearms, and under federal law, marijuana is a controlled substance.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a September 2011 letter, “Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes … is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”
The federal government ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana card holders does not violate the Second Amendment, according to an August 2016 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said Congress reasonably concluded that marijuana and other drug use “raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
Thirty medical marijuana card holders have received such letters since Jan. 1, said department spokeswoman MIchelle Yu.
HPD began mailing letters to firearm registrants when the department gained access to the marijuana registry database run by the state Department of Health, Yu said. The state revised its permit application to acquire firearms earlier this month to include the use of medical marijuana as grounds for disqualification, she said.
HPD said patients would be required to provide a medical doctor’s clearance for any future firearm applications or to have their guns returned by the police department. Marijuana patients must wait one year after the expiration of their medical cannabis cards to reapply for a gun permit.
“Checking the database is now part of the department’s standard background verification for all gun applicants,” Yu said. She didn’t give a reason why HPD hasn’t enforced the law since 2000 when the state first legalized medical marijuana.
Chinatown resident James Logue, 32, a gun owner and disabled veteran who supports the use of medical cannabis, said going after patients is “ridiculous.”
“There’s plenty of people on prescription pain medications who are a lot more dangerous,” he said. “If you look at all the mass shootings and the shootings in Chinatown and Waikiki, it’s illegal drug use, it’s prescription medication. It’s a waste of time and resources, especially because there are plenty people who’ve committed domestic violence and sexual assault, and they’re still out there with their weapons and they’re not being told to turn them in.”
The stigmatization of marijuana patients is troubling, said Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.
An employee places marijuana for sale into glass containers at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016.AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
“The labeling of medical cannabis patients as a danger lumped under the category of ‘mental incompetence/impairment,’ with the assumption that all patients are impaired, is one that is not based on reality,” he said.
Chris Garth, executive director of the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance, added that HPD’s interpretation of the federal law is misguided.
“Medical cannabis is not a public safety issue, it’s a public health issue,” Garth said. “And to continue to criminalize medical cannabis patients is archaic and wildly inappropriate.”
Marijuana patient Randy Gonce, an Air Force veteran who lives in Kaneohe, said that he previously owned firearms in Hawaii.
“I currently do not anymore. A lot of the reason I do not is because I was afraid of something like this, especially with the new administration,” he said. “There should be realistic regulations around weapons, absolutely. (But) it’s kind of criminalizing patients who are receiving medical care. It’s almost making us feel like we’re doing something wrong. As someone who takes gun ownership and laws very seriously, it’s upsetting that this is now the tone of the HPD. It’s unfortunate it’s happening now that our medical marijuana program is up and running. It’s unfortunate that we have to be cautious when we’re trying to better ourselves.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
©2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."
After a year and a half since the Army took delivery on the first of its souped-up new version of the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the Pentagon's Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio is ramping up to deliver the service's first full brigade of upgraded warhorses to bring the pain downrange.
On Tuesday, two political veterans groups, one on the left, the other on the right, announced a new lobbying campaign aimed at ending America's 'forever wars.'
In a video tied to the announcement, Dan Caldwell, the senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative veterans' group, and Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets, a liberal vets group which aims to get former service members into office, laid out their plan for a lobbying campaign aimed at changing policy on how the United States wages war.