Medical Cannabis Patients Demand Essential Gun Rights in Minnesota

In Minnesota, There are strange bedfellows, and then there is the political coalition currently being forged.

It is a convergence of Second Amendment champions and marijuana advocates in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, with the two sides coming together to push for medical cannabis patients to be permitted to own guns. 

As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, some “gun-rights supporters and pro-legalization groups and legislators are lobbying during the special session to allow the Minnesota Department of Health to petition the federal government to exempt marijuana from its Schedule I classification for patients on the medical program, meaning the government recognizes it has medicinal qualities.”

The reason why patients in Minnesota aren’t allowed to buy a firearm stems from the federal government’s long standing prohibition on marijuana, a discrepancy that has brought all sorts of frustrations and roadblocks to states and cities that have legalized pot either for medicinal use or recreational use. 

The Minnesota Department of Health has the breakdown: “Cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Federal law prohibits anyone who uses an ‘unlawful’ substance, including medical cannabis, from purchasing a firearm. In 2011, the federal US Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Division (ATFE) stated medical cannabis users were not entitled to exercise their right to bear arms because of the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis.

“Citing cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the agency said: ‘[T]here are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.’ The Minnesota Department of Health does not regulate the possession or purchase of firearms and therefore cannot say how the federal prohibition will be enforced. Specific questions about these federal firearm restrictions should be directed to your attorney or the appropriate law enforcement agency.”

Minnesota and Federal Legalizaion

Of course, major changes could be afoot on the federal level. Late last month saw the introduction of the MORE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, legislation that seeks to “decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses and for other purposes.”

The bill has serious momentum on Capitol Hill, where Democrats control chambers of Congress, and party leaders appear motivated to end prohibition. In April, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats are prepared to move ahead on marijuana legalization, even if President Joe Biden––who has been reluctant to embrace outright legalization––isn’t fully on board.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said then. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point, we’re going to move forward, period.”

But advocates in Minnesota could make some history of their own. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “If their effort is successful, Minnesota would be the first of 36 states that allow medical marijuana in some form to appeal directly to the federal government on behalf of its enrollees, a number that’s expected to expand three to four times over the next few years with the addition of the dried flower for adults.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz last month signed legislation that finally gave medical cannabis patients in the state access to marijuana flower. 

Previously, cannabis patients in the state could only access marijuana products such as oils and topicals. Walz, a Democrat, has indicated that he supports legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Minnesota, saying in 2018 that he backed “legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use by developing a system of taxation, guaranteeing that it is Minnesota-grown and expunging the records of Minnesotans convicted of marijuana crimes.”

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