Delaware’s Democratic governor has vetoed a bill meant to clarify that medical marijuana patients are not prohibited from buying, possessing or transferring firearms under state law.
Gov. John Carney (D), one of the only Democratic governors who remains vocally opposed to adult-use cannabis legalization, vetoed the legislation, HB 276, on Thursday. The bill from Rep. Andria Bennett (D) cleared the legislature with nearly unanimous, bipartisan support in June.
Carney, who also vetoed a marijuana legalization measure in May, said in a veto statement that he felt that the medical cannabis gun rights reform was redundant because he says there’s nothing in state statute that renders a patient to be a “person prohibited” from accessing firearms.
“HB 276, while intended to provide clarity, does not add new meaningful protections or rights for Delawareans,” he wrote. “Additionally, if signed into law, HB 276 risks creating confusion about the rights of medical marijuana patients—under federal law—to purchase firearms here in Delaware.”
“Under current federal law, the use of marijuana, even for medical purposes, remains illegal. Federal law and background check processes currently restrict the ability of a user of marijuana, even for medical purposes, from purchasing a firearm. HB 276 would not ease the existing tension between state public health policy and federal drug enforcement policy, nor would it eliminate the complexities and risks that confront Delawareans who are or may become gun owners and medical marijuana users.”
“At best, HB 276 maintains the status quo,” the statement concludes. “At worst, it risks misleading those who may be impacted and increasing public confusion.”
Lawmakers were unable to get enough votes to overturn the governor’s decision on the adult-use legalization bill this year.
Carney rejected that measure despite the growing public support for the reform, particularly among voters in his own party. A poll released last week found that 60 percent of registered Delaware voters said that marijuana use “should be legal.”
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Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R) a cosponsor of the Second Amendment legislation, said the governor’s citing federal law as a reason to block the bill doesn’t hold up, as the state’s medical cannabis program itself contradicts federal policy.
“The governor has chosen to continue a medical program—which I support—that’s illegal at the federal level but not chosen to allow people to keep their rights while practicing that program,” he told Delaware Public Media.
Carney’s veto of the gun rights bill, first reported by Bearing Arms, stands in stark contrast to actions taken by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), who is actively suing the Justice Department over the federal ban on firearms for medical cannabis patients.
Fried said earlier this month that an initial oral hearing on the lawsuit in federal court went well, with her legal team doing a “compelling job” of laying out their arguments against the ban.
For the time being, the current federal policy persists, making it so people are denied gun purchases if they’re honest about their cannabis use while filling out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) background check form—regardless of state law.
Supporters of Fried’s lawsuit argue that the ATF requirement effectively creates an incentive for cannabis consumers to either lie on the form, buy a gun on the illicit market or simply forgo a constitutional right.
In 2020, ATF issued an advisory specifically targeting Michigan that requires gun sellers to conduct federal background checks on all unlicensed gun buyers because it said the state’s cannabis laws had enabled “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals to obtain firearms illegally.
There have been previous efforts in Congress to specifically protect medical cannabis patients against losing their right to purchase and possess guns, but those efforts have not been enacted.
Read the governor’s veto statement on the medical cannabis and gun rights bill below: