Illinois: Gun language scrubbed from medical marijuana program rules

Medical cannabis program particpants in Illinois may be able to seek treatment without surrendering thier firearms cards. (Photo credit: Reuters/Anothony Bolante)

Medical cannabis program participants in Illinois may be able to seek treatment without surrendering their firearms cards. (Photo credit: Reuters/Anothony Bolante)

The Illinois Department of Public Health has decided to drop the provision requiring the forfeiture of firearms for patients and caregivers in a medical cannabis program.

When first introduced in January, the new Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in which qualified individuals can receive medical marijuana for therapy required participants to effectively surrender their rights to possess a firearm.

According to the Associated Press, regulators working on the final draft for the program have removed such language.

The original program draft contained the following section that prohibited gun possession by those who would legally use medical cannabis in Illinois:

That the applicant understands that a qualifying patient or designated caregiver with a current Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) or a Concealed Carry Weapons Permit (CCW) who is approved for a registry identification card shall be in violation of and may not possess firearms under relevant state and federal law.

As such, registered qualifying patients and designated caregivers are not eligible for a Firearm Owners Identification Card or a Firearm Concealed Carry License and may be subject to administrative proceedings by the Illinois State Police if they do not voluntarily surrender such card or license.

By requiring that the FOID card be turned over, for which it is illegal to possess a modern firearm in Illinois without, it would have placed participants and their caregivers in violation of the law to have a gun along with their prescription cannabis.

As such, the program created the dilemma: one could either turn in one’s gun to receive legal treatment, opt to keep an illegal gun while and participate in the program or keep one’s legal gun and self-medicate with illegal marijuana.

The move to drop the gun requirements in the final version of the program was championed by proponents of medical cannabis.

“Anything that makes it less burdensome for the patients is always a good thing,” said Julie Falco of Chicago, who speaks openly about how she has used cannabis to control her pain from multiple sclerosis. “It never did make any sense.”

However, no matter what the state decides, there is still the specter of federal gun laws.

Although the state may change their tune on guns and cannabis, the federal government so far has not. (Photo credit: Pelleylawgroup.com)

Although the state may change their tune on guns and cannabis, the federal government so far has not. (Photo credit: Pelleylawgroup.com)

In an open letter (pdf) to all FFLs published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 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.”

This situation in Illinois, where local law allows legally owned firearms to coexist with legally used cannabis while federal law is in disagreement, is almost standard in the current environment according to cannabis advocates.

“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,” explained Erik Altieri, Communications Director Northeastern/Central U.S. Chapter Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws to Guns.com previously.

The organization has been active in recent years in restoring Second Amendment rights to medical cannabis patients.

The new Illinois rules were published Friday.