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Arkansas Law Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients’ Gun Rights Officially Takes Effect



A new law officially takes effect in Arkansas on Tuesday to clarify that medical marijuana patients can obtain concealed carry licenses for firearms.

The governor signed the bill in April, just days after it sailed through the legislature with strong majority support.

The newly effective law stipulates that a person’s status as a qualified medical cannabis patient in the state cannot be used “in determining whether an applicant is eligible to be issued a license to carry a concealed handgun.”

State statute has also been amended to clarify that participation in the medical marijuana program doesn’t mean that a person is a chronic or habitual user of a controlled substance, which could otherwise disqualify people from obtaining the concealed carry permit.

The state Department of Health (DOH) will be barred from disclosing a person’s patient status to the state police as part of any investigation into concealed carry eligibility.

While some states have moved to more broadly preserve firearm rights for cannabis patients and consumers, the new law signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) is more narrowly tailored to the concealed carry issue.

Arkansas does not require people to have a permit for concealed carry, but some Arkansas firearms owners prefer to have one because of the protections it can bestow when traveling in other states and because of the clarity it provides during police encounters.

“Amendment 98 had language that said no patient’s right or privilege should be infringed upon on the basis of having medical marijuana. However, this wasn’t extended to concealed carry holders,” Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R), who sponsored the newly enacted bill, told KATV, referring to the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis ballot initiative.

“There was an issue and a concern about what the federal law said,” he said. “But now federal law says that gun rights should not be restricted based on patient status, and so no other prescriptions whether it be opioids or others, prohibits somebody from having a concealed carry license.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Arkansas voters defeated a ballot initiative to more broadly legalize marijuana for adults last year.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas patient-focused law is coming into force as the issue of gun rights for cannabis consumers is actively being taken up in the federal court system.

There have been several federal cases over the past year where the Justice Department has been forced to defend the constitutionality of the federal ban on firearms for people who use marijuana, especially in light of a U.S. Supreme Court case where justices generally created a higher standard for policies that seek to impose restrictions on gun rights.

In February, a federal judge declared that the ban prohibiting people who use marijuana from possessing firearms is unconstitutional, saying that the federal government’s justification for upholding the law is “concerning.” DOJ is appealing that decision.

Even so, after Minnesota became one of the latest states to enact legalization in May, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a warning to emphasize that people who use cannabis remain federally banned from purchasing and possessing guns.

At the congressional level, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) filed a bill in April to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states.

Mast is also cosponsoring a separate bill from Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) this session that would more narrowly allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms.

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