Hopeful participants in the new medical marijuana program in Illinois may have a hard decision to make between their treatment and their Second Amendment rights.
If the proposed set of rules for the program is enacted by the Legislature, patients and their caregivers will have to surrender their firearms to comply with the state’s law.
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) is a program run by the Illinois Department of Public Health in which qualified individuals can receive medical marijuana for therapy.
Under the guidelines published yesterday, the experimental program, which is scheduled to run until Jan. 1, 2018, is very tightly regulated.
Signed into law this month, it will be one of the most heavily regulated programs among the 21 states that currently allow use of the drug. Eligible patients with one of no fewer than 35 qualifying medical conditions can seek treatment from a limited number of licensed dispensaries who in turn will draw from a certified cultivation centers.
To receive a card for the program candidates will have to pay $150 fee and be subject to a background check from the state police. Patients will be limited to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks. A special 7 percent tax will be added to each purchase to pay for the program’s enforcement.
In a recent poll, some 76 percent of doctors approved of the medical use of marijuana for certain conditions.
One of the harshest requirements is that neither program participants nor their caregivers will be allowed to possess a legal firearm. Even if they previously had a gun and valid FOID card or concealed carry permit in the state, it would be a violation of federal law for program participants to retain a firearm.
This is due to the paradoxical situation of conflicting federal and state laws on marijuana use.
In an open letter (pdf) to all FFLs published by the BATFE in 2011, the agency made clear that “There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.”
The letter goes on to explain that even state-sanctioned marijuana use is ‘unlawful’ for the purpose of the 4473 form used in firearms transactions. On that form question 11e specifically asks the buyer of a firearm, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp weighed in on the issue.
“I just don’t think anyone should have their second amendment rights taken away from them because they’re on a prescription for a pain killer,” said Kettelkamp.
Erik Altieri, Communications Director Northeastern/Central US Chapter Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) spoke with Guns.com on this issue, he offered the following explanation:
Unfortunately, due to marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level, despite what any state law says to the contrary, this situation is pretty common in any state that has approved a medical marijuana program. The standard form for over the counter firearm sales even includes a specific question asking “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
Since the federal government still considers marijuana, regardless of purpose of use, to be a Schedule I controlled substance, patients who are legally abiding by state law when it comes to their marijuana consumption still fail this requirement.
We hope to see sensible reforms soon occur at the federal level so that any individual’s medical use of marijuana is treated the same as use of all other physician recommended medication and that their use would not require them to give up their constitutionally guaranteed right to gun ownership. Patients should not be forced to chose between an effective medical treatment and their constitutional rights, the current status quo is appalling and untenable.
The IDPH will take comments on this proposed set of rules until Feb. 7 and then submit them to a legislative panel for approval by the end of April.