ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Feb. 13, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Maryland House would protect medical marijuana users’ right to possess firearms in the state. It would also help foster an environment hostile to federal gun control and take another step toward nullifying unconstitutional marijuana prohibition.
Sen. Michael Hough (R) and Sen. Robert Zirkin (D) introduced Senate Bill 602 (SB602) on Jan. 31. The legislation provides that a person may not be denied the right to purchase, possess, or carry a firearm solely on the basis that the person is authorized to use medical cannabis.
Currently, both federal and Maryland state law stipulate that an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance cannot possess firearms. Even though Maryland has legalized medical marijuana, the mere possession of marijuana in the state remains otherwise illegal in any other circumstance. As the Maryland gun lobbying organization MSI explains it, this remains the law even though possession of small amounts of marijuana has also been decriminalized in the state. “See Robinson, 451 Md. at 9 – ‘Simply put, decriminalization is not synonymous with legalization, and possession of marijuana remains unlawful.'”
In other words, a medical marijuana user could conceivably be denied the right to buy, sell or even possess a firearm under state law.
Passage of SB602 would clarify state law and ensure medical marijuana users retain their right to purchase, possess and carry firearms.
While federal law would remain in place, passage of this legislation would strip away one layer of law relating to firearms and cannabis. Medical marijuana users would still have to take federal law into consideration, but without state enforcement, the federal government would have a much more difficult time enforcing its will – as it currently does with more general marijuana laws. Quite simply, the feds lack the personnel and resources to enforce their laws without state help.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance. And they aren’t going to be able to enforce gun laws against marijuana users if the state bows out either.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
By removing a legal hurdle in front of Marylanders wanting to use medicinal cannabis, SB602 would help expand the market, further nullifying the federal government’s unconstitutional prohibtion of marijuana.
Passage of SB602 would also subtly undermine federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway. Again – the federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.
SB602 was referred to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 1 p.m.
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