Medical cannabis patients in Hawaii now must “voluntarily” fork over their guns — and they only have 30 days to do so.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard mailed a letter to medical cannabis patients, who must register with the state in order to receive their medicine, notifying them of the obligation to turn in their guns (another state registry) — or else.
Of course, Ballard’s ‘else’ — what will actually happen to people on both lists refusing to comply with the ostensively ‘voluntary’ order — wasn’t explained. But the tone of the letter suggests strict and swift … something … for noncompliance:
“If you currently own or have any firearms,” the chief wrote, “you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit, and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) or otherwise transfer ownership. A medical doctor’s clearance letter is required for any future firearms applications or return of firearms from HPD evidence.”
Horrifying to Second Amendment rights advocates, medical cannabis proponents, and civil liberties defenders, this foray into gun confiscation foments for many suspicions about the U.S. government turning totalitarian and leaving the people defenseless. Hawaii had only opened its first medical cannabis dispensary three months ago — and now many are nervous.
Reason’s Jacob Sullum explains the State’s impetus for action — which, unsurprisingly, reduces to federal cannabis prohibition:
“As authority for disarming medical marijuana users, Ballard cites Section 134-7(a) of Hawaii’s Revised Statutes, which says ‘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.’ The relevant federal provision prohibits possession of firearms by anyone who is ‘an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.’
“Since federal law does not recognize any legitimate reason for consuming cannabis, all use is unlawful use, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives makes clear in a boldfaced warning on the form that must be completed by anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer: ‘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.’”
In short, the United States’ War on Drugs yet again collides with citizens’ rights — wrapping decades of horrendously inaccurate propaganda and misinformation in the cloak of law-and-order goodness — using the archaic pretext and stigma of pot prohibition to disarm otherwise law-abiding medical patients.
Clearer evidence this is a nation of states beholden to its federal parent — not states joined in a union beneficial for all and individually capable of self-determination — would be difficult to come by.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now allow medical treatment with cannabis, despite antiquated federal prohibition; and residents in any one of them are forced to essentially presume the good graces of their state and local governments not to abruptly comply with the national ban on use of the plant.
To wit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives last year over , deciding a person’s medical marijuana patient status exempts them from the constitutional right to own firearms, stating,
“It may be argued that medical marijuana users are less likely to commit violent crimes, as they often suffer from debilitating illnesses, for which marijuana may be an effective palliative. But those hypotheses are not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
While both prohibition and Ninth Circuit’s ruling apply federally, Honolulu police instead cite state law in the letter as the basis for requesting pot patients’ guns, as Leafly points out, which states,
“Under the provisions of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7(a), you are disqualified from firearms ownership.”
However, Section 134-7(a) does not specifically address medical cannabis patients — rather, is a gross generalization, stating,
“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 therefor.”
With cannabis placed prominently and ludicrously alongside heroin and other illicit ‘drugs’ as a Schedule I, no medicinal properties, substance — despite synthetic THC, the psychoactive component of pot, having just been re-listed by the DEA to Schedule II — the chances Hawaii’s experiment in actual firearm confiscation is absolutely under national and state-level scrutiny.
Registries of medical pot patients vary by state, with Hawaii’s somewhat unusual in its searchability and thoroughness. Registries of gun owners are also disparate by state, with a few — like Arizona — not requiring firearm purchasers to register, period.
Honolulu residents seeking to own guns while treating themselves with cannabis, in the meantime, will soon be out of luck — while, nationally, gun owners, cannabis patients, and politicians across the spectrum watch vigilantly to see what fate could befall them when seemingly innocuous registries metamorphose into blacklists of bad seeds who must be dealt with.