Guns and pot: Colorado gun group seeks equal rights for marijuana users

A Colorado group is hoping marijuana users could be able to carry concealed firearms, should a measure its backing make it in front of voters on the November 2016 ballot.

The Colorado Campaign for Equal Gun Rights, operating under the Guns for Everyone group, wants to put the question before the state’s voters and effectively subvert federal law which restricts possession of weed and guns, The Associated Press reported.

The state already violated federal law when it became among the first states to pass recreational marijuana statutes last year.   

“We’re doing it that exact same way — undermining federal law, giving power back to Colorado residents,” Edgar Antillon, co-founder of Guns for Everyone, told Guns.com. “This is about the rights of gun owners, not about marijuana use.”

Guns for Everyone claims legal marijuana users are denied the right to self defense because of the federal regulation, but the measure doesn’t seek to allow those under the influence of marijuana to be allowed to carry.

Because marijuana is a controlled substance with no federal exemptions, Colorado sheriffs can deny concealed carry permits to individuals who use it, which is in line with guidelines set forth by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The gun rights group needs to gather 86,100 signatures to validate the measure backers say will treat marijuana users just like alcohol users and bring extra money into state and county coffers.

Antillon is still in the preliminary stages of the measure’s creation and can’t start gathering signatures until getting the go-ahead from the secretary of state. The group first needs to meet with a legislative council on Monday to get the ball rolling.

Some 20 states have legalized marijuana for medical use since 1996 and in November 2013 Colorado and Washington legalized its use for recreational purposes.

In September 2011, after receiving a number of inquiries into the medical use of marijuana in conjunction with federal firearms regulations, the ATF issued an open letter reiterating the illegality of the combination and stressed the federal government doesn’t see the drug as a medicine.

Though the fight to arm marijuana users is a new one, Guns for Everyone has been around since 2010, Antillon said. The organization has been providing free concealed carry classes to state residents, some of whom happened to be marijuana users.

“So what we thought we’d do is provide a path for these students to defend themselves without the fear of going to jail … by attaining a permit to carry,” Antillon said.

Getting the two groups together is an uphill battle, Antillon said. Often at odds, the two groups have a hard time seeing eye to eye. Many marijuana users oppose guns and many gun owners look down on the former, Antillon said.

“It’s a very weird place where we’re at,” Antillon said. “We’re just trying to get both those freedoms together.”