Public will, pot laws may not converge quickly

By Tahlequah Daily Press

July 11–Making medicinal marijuana legal in Oklahoma is expected to take time, and there could be some sharp turns along the way — such as the Tuesday announcement by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The OSDH board voted to ban sales of smokeable medical marijuana and require a pharmacist be employed at any dispensary. The two regulations are not mentioned in the state question passed by voters June 26, and a legal challenge could ensue if the “emergency rules” are put into effect by Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

If the public applies pressure, the Board of Health could easily recommend changing the policy. The possibilities are numerous because there is confusion. It appears the Oklahoma Legislature has punted on the medicinal marijuana issue for now, leaving it to the OSDH to issue 75 pages of first-draft pot law.

There remains the issue of legal marijuana and firearms. Though there would be no state prohibition against someone having pot and a gun or ammunition, it is against federal law. The question is, should Oklahoma police agencies report to the feds anyone caught with a joint and a hunting rifle?

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is contacted if the sheriff’s office finds someone breaking federal law.

“We would do a report and send it to the ATF,” Chennault said. “It would be up to the ATF to decide whether they want to present it to the U.S. attorney. But we really haven’t been told how we are going to enforce this. I assume that once the regulations are written out, we probably will be informed of it through the district attorney. Right now, we’re in the dark like everyone else.”

Dr. Shannon Grimes, chair of the Cherokee County Libertarian Party, said Oklahoma’s legalization of medical marijuana did nothing to thwart “federal overreach” on cannabis, and that denial of firearm ownership is unconstitutional.

“The states need to keep ignoring and nullifying unconstitutional federal action and regulation, just as they are with medical cannabis across the U.S.,” Grimes said. “Congress needs to take action to remove these federal overreaches. They are stupid regulations founded on ignorance, special interests, and bigotry at their roots. They create problems and encourage disregard for the laws generally. Federal action needs to correct the unconstitutional stupidity, and in the meantime, states need to keep pushing back for the liberty and health of their citizens.”

There has been no spike in federal prosecutions of marijuana users owning guns in states where cannabis is in some way legal, but states have begun issuing public warnings about the federal law. The Honolulu Police Department sent a letter to medical marijuana users, telling them to voluntarily “surrender” any firearms they own.

Question 11e on ATF Form 4473 literally warns gun purchasers — in bold typeface — that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Checking “yes” on this question obviates all other gun purchase procedure — no background check and no sale. And even if states might look for wiggle room on federal marijuana regulation, those filling out the ATF form should not try bending the law themselves.

“Be honest on the form,” said Greg Boyle, owner of BS&G Pawn. “If they check ‘yes,’ they can’t buy a firearm. But if they are a user and they check ‘no,’ that is a felony, even if marijuana is legalized in your state.”

Some look at the uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma’s medicinal marijuana and see laws that haven’t caught up with public opinion — at both the state and federal levels.

“The legitimate purpose of banning guns around illegal drugs is the nefarious nature of drug dealing — introducing an enhanced level of danger in a criminal activity,” said former State Sen. Jim Wilson, a Democrat. “This argument ceases to be relevant when the product is controlled and marketed as any other legal product.”

Wilson pointed to the contrast of the federal government assuming the holder of a marijuana license is a user and denying a firearms purchase, while states that allow recreational use of cannabis confer “plausible deniability” to all their residents.

“As is usually the case, Congress lags behind the will of the people on this issue,” Wilson said. “Even the Drug Enforcement Agency has the authority to change marijuana’s classification from Schedule I to any other schedule, making it legal to study and prescribe. Neither Congress nor the DEA has responded to the will of the people in the 31 states that passed marijuana liberalization laws.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.