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Maryland Lawmakers Discuss Bill To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients’ Gun Rights Under State Law



Maryland lawmakers in a House committee took testimony on Wednesday about a measure that would protect the gun rights of medical marijuana patients under state law.

If enacted, the one-paragraph measure, HB 296, sponsored by Del. Robin L. Grammer Jr. (R), would protect the rights of registered medical marijuana patients to buy, own and carry firearms under Maryland law, even people who use cannabis are still restricted from doing so under federal statute. Grammer and others introduced similar legislation last session.

Specifically, the bill says that “a person may not be denied the right to purchase, own, possess, or carry a firearm…solely on the basis that the person is authorized to use medical cannabis” under state law.

The Maryland Senate passed identical cannabis Second Amendment protection legislation last month.

The measure “protects the firearm ownership rights of those who qualify to use medical cannabis by reconciling the public safety and health articles,” Grammer told the House Judiciary Committee at Wednesday’s hearing.

Despite state law saying that medical marijuana patients may not be denied any right or privilege merely for using medical marijuana, Grammer explained, patients nevertheless lose their ability to purchase or own firearms. In response to a request from state police, he said, a former state attorney general has said that “the best way to harmonize the statutes” is to “create a limited exception to the [handgun qualification license] statute such that Maryland State Police may not deny a license to qualifying medical cannabis patients solely on that ground. That’s what this bill does.”

“Prohibition of marijuana is over in our state,” he added. “We need less illegal guns and less illegal drugs on our streets. We can achieve that by providing legal pathways for Maryland in this bill. ”

Most of the hearing consisted of testimony from veterans and advocates. One Maryland resident who spoke, Randall Cody Floyd, described himself as “a 100 percent disabled veteran of the Army.”

“As a military veteran,” Floyd noted, “I’m actually exempt from taking any shooting proficiency courses that the state asks of you to get that permit. But because I’m medical cannabis holder, I can’t have a gun period, which is basically saying that I am not competent to hold a firearm.”

“Basically I chose my medical cannabis card over my gun rights, and I should not have to do that,” he continued. “I can get my carry permit with prescription opioids or painkillers, but for something that I choose that’s a less harmful route, I can’t own a gun. Why is that?”

One member of the panel, Del. N. Scott Phillips (D) described Floyds comparison of firearms policies around marijuana versus opioids as a “drop the mic moment.”

Despite strong support from veterans who spoke at the hearing, however, the bill also drew criticism.

Mark Pennak, president of the Second Amendment group Maryland Shall Issue, said he’s not opposed to the bill but is worried that it risks misinforming Marylanders about the legal risks to marijuana users who own guns. Even if the measure becomes law, federal prohibition means cannabis users could still be arrested and charged over state-legal firearms, he said. Gun dealers may also still refuse to sell guns to people who acknowledge using marijuana, whether for medical purposes or not.

“The state can make all the laws it wants to legalize that stuff, and I’m fully sympathetic to it,” he told the committee, but “you’re misleading people into thinking it’s legal when it’s not.”

“People are getting pulled over on the [Baltimore–Washington] Parkway by a federal law enforcement officer,” Pennak warned. “This provision will expose them to arrest.”

As for gun dealers, he said, “a dealer will not sell if you answer yes” on a questionnaire about marijuana use. “If he does, he’s gonna lose his ATF license and he may be an accessory to an illegal acquisition. That’s a federal felony, so they’re not gonna take that risk. That’s the hard reality.”

In the Maryland Senate, lawmakers passed the companion version of the legislation, SB 348 from Sen. Mike McKay (R), in a February 20 floor vote of 43–2, about a week after it cleared the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

If the legislation becomes law, it would take effect on October 1.

The issue has been raised in multiple state legislatures and federal courts in recent years, as marijuana and gun rights advocates challenge the constitutionality of the federal ban that currently prevents cannabis consumers from owning firearms.

In January in neighboring Pennsylvania, for example, a district attorney filed suit against the Justice Department over the ban that he says violates the Second Amendment rights of medical cannabis patients such as himself.

A Republican senator in Pennsylvania also recently said that he will soon introduce legislation that would remove barriers under state law to medical marijuana patients carrying firearms.

The governor of South Dakota signed a bill into law that will require patients to check off a box on medical marijuana card applications affirming that they’re aware that federal law prohibits cannabis consumers from buying and possessing guns.

And in Colorado, advocates are poised to begin gathering signatures on a voter initiative that would remove state barriers that currently prohibit gun owners from obtaining concealed handgun permits for lawful use of medical marijuana.

The federal Justice Department has insisted on the necessity of the banning cannabis consumers for possessing guns in numerous federal courts, arguing at points that people who use marijuana pose a unique danger, akin to permitting people with serious mental illness to own firearms.

The question over the constitutionality of the federal gun ban for people who use marijuana is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering taking up the issue.

Justices are expected to decide whether they will hear a federal government appeal of a circuit court ruling that found the firearm restriction violates the Second Amendment.

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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The ruling came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which examined the federal statute known as Section 922(g)(3) that prevents someone who is an “unlawful user” of an illegal drug from buying or possessing firearms. The circuit court found the policy unconstitutional as applied to a man who faced a conviction after admitting to having used cannabis while in possession of a gun.

While people who use cannabis are barred from owning firearms under the statute, a little-notice FBI memo from 2019 that recently surfaced shows that the federal government generally does not consider it a violation of the law for medical cannabis caregivers and growers to have guns.

Republican congressional lawmakers have filed two bills in the first half of this current two-year session that focus on gun and marijuana policy.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, filed legislation last year to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana in legal states, allowing them to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from having under federal law.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to attaching that legislation to a bipartisan marijuana banking bill that advanced out of committee in September.

Meanwhile, 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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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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