Medical Marijuana Users ‘Have 30 Days’ To Turn In Their Guns, Honolulu Police Say

news
DoD photo

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.

Flickr photo

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.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less