ATF: No guns for medical marijuana users

Almost lost in the hubbub of this week’s IRS and Justice Department crackdowns on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries was another revelation of federal action: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is telling gun sellers it’s illegal for medical marijuana patients to own firearms.

The Sept. 21 letter from ATF Assistant Director Arthur Herbert states, “ 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.”

A lot of advocates – be they advocates of medical marijuana or the Second Amendment – are boiling mad.

“ATF’s blatant discrimination against Americans whose use marijuana legally under state law is outrageous,” Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann said Thursday. “It’s not just that ATF is riding roughshod over the rights of citizens who use marijuana legally with a doctors’ recommendation and thumbing its nose at laws enacted by sixteen states. It’s that there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that use of marijuana – whether for medical purposes or otherwise – is linked to reckless use of guns. … There should be zero tolerance for this sort of discrimination by the federal government.”

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who serve one of the 16 states with medical marijuana laws, each wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder earlier this week to protest the policy.

“We’re reviewing the matter,” Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, said Friday; the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the same thing. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the National Rifle Association didn’t immediately respond to inquiries today.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • David

    Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center and Walter Stanley, an open carry activist, are interviewed in this segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cJUuXT1AFg

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    How are the dudes gonna guard their stash?

  • Walter, Livermore

    We should all be asking ourselves where the federal government gets the authority to regulate drugs. You won’t find anything in Article 1, Section 8 (Enumerated Powers) of the US Constitution. Therefore, drugs and more specifically, medical marijuana in California is a 10th Amendment issue associated with states’ rights.

    The bottom line is, the federal government has used the failed ‘War on (some) Drugs’ to erode our individual right to be secure in our person/property (4th Amendment) and now they are using it to attack medical patients and infringe upon their fundamental right to protect themselves (2nd Amendment).

    The Obama 180: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvUziSfMwAw

  • John W

    Walter – Livermore

    Is it your opinion and interpretation of the 10th Amendment that the federal government can only deal in matters that people in 1789 could anticipate and explicitly enumerate in the Constitution — and that only the states can deal with any matter that is not specifically enumerated? In other words, the only way the Feds could get involved in anything the founders did not anticipate would be to amend the constitution and make it look like California’s monstrosity of a constitution with its 500 or so amendments. I don’t think even Scalia, with his “originalist” philosophy would go that far.

    That said, clearly we need a different playbook for dealing with drugs.

  • David

    @John W, We all know that it’s bullshit to call medical marijuana “interstate commerce.” Harborside Health Center is operating in Oakland and not doing business outside of the state. Don’t you think it’s interesting that alcohol prohibition required the 18th Amendment? At least they used to follow the rules back then. Pete Stark, Barney Frank, and Ron Paul have introduced legislation to fix the situation at the federal level, but I doubt it will go anywhere. We need to get the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act or a similar initiative on the ballot that will prevent state employees and officials from cooperating with the feds and demand that marijuana be removed from Schedule 1.

  • John W

    @David Says

    As for the interstate commerce issue, I believe that, right or wrong, the Court has ruled that controlled substances, including medical marijuana, do fit. I’m all for medical marijuana, but that’s not what we have going on in CA. I’ve stood across the street from “pot shops” in SF, watching hopped up 20-something kids go in and come out with their stash and jump back into their cars in God only knows what condition. “Medical,” my a**! The “grows” in state and national forests and even on other people’s private land are disgusting and scary. I’m still making up my mind about outright legalization. Just picked up “Last Call,” a book on the rise and fall of Prohibition. Many say the lessons of Prohibition apply to drugs. I’m still trying to learn and make up my own mind about that.

  • Jerry

    Land of the Free
    Freedom and democracy has changed in the United States. Instead of the peoples vote being the only votes, now people elect representatives to vote on their behalf. They made gun laws to protect the people. Such as, ex-felons can’t own a gun, even if your crime had nothing to do with violence. What happened to serving your time meant you paid your debt. Now you not only pay your sentence, but are made a sub species of America. They now want to take your gun rights for involvement with medical marijuana. Yet the states accept your endorsement fees and tax money.
    The president said that medical marijuana was acceptable providing people abided by the states laws, then after people spent money, time, and believed our officials, federal and state officials disregarded what was said and mercilessly and without warning, start confiscating homes and all sorts of assets. Leaving you a criminal with nothing but a felony. Try getting a job now.
    What happened to laws of fairness of intent? Now anyone caught urinating in a discrete situation, even in the middle of the woods, will be put on the sex offenders list. Is this reasonable? Funny how law enforcement and government officials make rules for us to live by with consequences, yet through the good “old boy system” they are exempt or they make laws where they are immune from punishment.
    The last thought on guns, America has supplied the people of various countries with guns and military weaponry to protect themselves from their leaders, yet even though it’s in our constitution that we have inalienable rights to bear arms to protect ourselves from our enemies.
    When marijuana was made a class one drug in the United States little was known about it. In these days and times all the propaganda has been found out but it is still considered a class one drug and many peoples’ lives have been ruined by imprisonment, fines, loss of assets and tax payers foot the bill on this senseless war on marijuana while officials capitalize.

  • Elwood

    Isn’t it nice that nobody smokes that **** to get high any more?

    It’s all medicine now!