Lee’s note: Here’s a great guest column from Sarasota attorney Cynthia M. Clark. Cindy is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), a specialist at relationship-based estate planning, elder law and gun trusts. She’s also a Navy veteran, as is her husband, and a huge Second Amendment supporter. (She gets guns.)
Smoke Two Joints in the Morning, Lose Your Guns in the Afternoon
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I wrote One Toke Over the Line: Medical Marijuana Snuffs Out Gun Rights and even longer since I wrote Up In Smoke: Gun Rights Under Current Marijuana Laws. Pot is still making headlines, but now we’re starting to see actual governmental actions instead of just theories. And it’s rather terrifying.
Earlier this month, shortly after the first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Honolulu Police Department sent letters to people who were on both the state’s medical Mary Jane (MMJ) patient registry and the state’s firearms permit registry. The letters ordered the recipients to voluntarily surrender or transfer their firearms within 30 days. Yes, they cross-referenced the electronic databases and were able to pinpoint which medical marijuana patients owned guns.
The letter cited only a vague state law and didn’t explain the connection between the state law and federal law. Under federal law, medical marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance (illegal) and MMJ users are prohibited from possessing firearms. If you’re prohibited on the federal level, most states piggyback on the federal laws so you’re also prohibited under state law.
But the letter doesn’t indicate what will happen if the letter recipient fails to voluntarily surrender her guns. Hawaii requires that all transfers be reported to the chief of police so the permit database can be updated. Therefore, the police chief will know if the letter recipient doesn’t surrender or transfer her guns. Then what? Will the police come politely to her door with a search warrant? Will a S.W.A.T. team break down her door in a no-knock raid to confiscate the contraband weapons and arrest her? Or is the letter just an empty threat – all sound and fury signifying nothing? [Update: due to the backlash, the Honolulu PD backed off a bit to review the policy.]
As Floridians, we tend to sit back and watch things like this play out in liberal, anti-gun bastions such as Hawaii, and say, “Well, that’s awful for them, but that won’t happen here in Florida. We don’t have gun permits or registration.” No, right now, we don’t. But things change. Florida is becoming bluer every year as the urban areas get larger, denser, and more influential in elections. Permits and registries could be in our future.
While the current MMJ laws state that the MMJ registry is subject to HIPPA laws and will be shared with only state and local government agencies in limited circumstances, laws change. Our MMJ laws are still wet and squishy, so there’s no telling what will happen a few years down the road – especially if the balance of power shifts. And we do have one registry – concealed carry licensees. It’s entirely conceivable that, at some point, CCL applications and renewals could be cross-referenced against a new MMJ database and CCL applicants who are found in the MMJ database will not be issued a CCL.
Of course, even if our CCL and MMJ databases are cross-referenced, no one knows how many guns a CCL applicant or holder has and there’s also no way to track whether they were surrendered or transferred. So, unlike our brothers in Hawaii, at this point we probably don’t have to worry too much about S.W.A.T. coming to our doors to take our guns.
But here’s thought – what if a Democratic-controlled Florida decided to voluntarily report all MMJ patients to NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System)? There’s no law forbidding a state from giving information about prohibited persons to the FBI. In fact, states are always in the anti-gun crowd’s crosshairs because they allegedly don’t provide enough information to NICS.
We can’t just sit back and ignore what’s happening in Hawaii. We’ll likely see more acts like this one as more MMJ programs ramp up. Of course, even without registration databases, marijuana use (medical or recreational) makes you just as ineligible to buy a gun as does a dishonorable discharge or a felony.
Click here to read the rest of Cindy’s column.