The state of Hawaii is embarking on an unconstitutional path with regards to the Second Amendment, and it is likely one that will very soon hit the mainland US. Letters have been sent to people who legally own a firearm and who also have a prescription for medical marijuana that they have just 30 days to turn their weapons in.
This counts not only for firearms, but for ammunition as well. It is an affront with no basis in the law, yet it is being enforced by the police at the behest of Hawaii’s government. The citizens “have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms. Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition,” read the letter signed by police chief Susan Ballard.
She states that Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7 (a) is the legal support for the action. It reads: “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 therefore.”
Despite state level legalization of marijuana, medical or recreational, the federal government still lists it as an controlled substance. Which makes users “prohibited possessors.”
“who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);”
There is some debate over the term “unlawful user” in that it is lawful at the state level, yet still unlawful under federal law.
While this impacts relatively few people in Honolulu, when a program is rolled out in a major city, the rest of the state tends to follow. The police department has been sending out letters since at least January and for now, this is still voluntary. They are using intimidation tactics to scare citizens into compliance with something that is, at least arguably, unconstitutional.
It begs a larger question. While many may agree that those under the influence of a drug (or even alcohol) should clearly not be operating a firearm. Yet there is no push to disarm those who drink or who use other prescription drugs. The idea that when not under the influence, rights should be restricted is dangerous precedent.
Medical marijuana users are essentially the same as users of any other prescribed drug. The only difference being the state and federal views of it as medicinal vs illicit drug. The federal government’s focus on the “opioid epidemic” could make the next step to designating prescribed users of opioids as “prohibited possessors” as well.
Then it moves on to those who drink alcohol. Though alcohol, like prescription drugs, is legal, alcohol abuse could be the next target. Could a DWI make you a “prohibited possessor?” Treatment for alcoholism? Family history of alcoholism?
Those who push for drug legalization at the state level may well be ushering in a form of backdoor gun control. As long as federal drug laws differ from state standards, the vague standard of “unlawful use” to be used to create new “prohibited possessors” remains.
This is a state’s rights issue, a constitutional issue and an individual rights issue. States see the revenue dollars associated with drug legalization. However, it is not a coincidence that the states that are legalizing marijuana are also fairly strict gun control states as well. It’s a win-win for those states in that they get the revenue from legalized drugs as well as another avenue for gun control.
It’s a pro-drug/anti-gun liberal progressive dream scenario and a pro-gun/pro-drug libertarian nightmare. For the rest of Americans in the middle it is mess. A slippery slope. A constitutional crisis. A states’ rights vs federal power debacle.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.