Missourians won’t have to choose between receiving public benefits and purchasing medical marijuana. That seems fair to us.
Some Missourians may have to decide between purchasing a gun and having a medical marijuana card. That seems odd.
This contrast isn’t surprising given the confusing state of marijuana laws, with cannabis legalized for medical purposes in Missouri but classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. That means the feds see marijuana as the equivalent of heroin or LSD, while the state treats it more like a prescription painkiller.
Missouri’s passage of Amendment 2 nearly a year ago shows just how complex these issues are. Regarding welfare benefits, some in Missouri faced the threat of getting kicked off Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, if they use medical marijuana, because state law requires drug testing in order to receive benefits.
Whatever your views on medical marijuana, the law is the law now, so it’s hard to justify denying a voter-approved right to lower-income Missourians.
The problem is, the state law is not the federal law. While the Missouri Department of Social Services showed some flexibility, state residents will encounter federal firearms regulations that provide no exemption for medical marijuana. Anyone who uses or possesses marijuana would be in violation of federal law that makes no distinction between legal and illegal cannabis.
This doesn’t mean the government will be taking away guns of legal marijuana users. Jon Ham, a public information officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Kansas City, said federal authorities will not review the state marijuana registry and will not change the agency’s focus from investigating gun trafficking and violent crime committed with guns.
“However, that’s not a free pass,” he said. “The only remedy to the situation would be a change in federal law.”
This issue will present itself when a Missourian seeks to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer, because that transaction requires completion of a six-page legal document that asks whether a buyer uses marijuana or other controlled substances. If the buyer says yes, the sale will be denied. Lying on the form would be a federal crime.
In our opinion, a review of the federal Schedule 1 designation makes sense, but the ATF has no choice but to enforce existing laws in a reasonable manner until that day arrives.
For those who want to use medical marijuana, the situation underscores how the world of legalized marijuana is not an easygoing hippie paradise. It opens the door to a highly regulated world of rules and choices. Users will have to follow those rules, even if they seem unfair.