Did Honolulu Police Break the Law by Telling MMJ Patients to Surrender Their Guns?


Last week, we ran a story about the Honolulu Police Department sending letters to medical marijuana patients stating they need to surrender any weapons in their possession. This has (understandably) sparked an uproar with medical patients, doctors, and legalization activists throughout the Hawaiian Islands, as well as citizens across the continental United States.

Federal Appeals Court Says Federal Law Restrictions Regarding MMJ and Gun Ownership Do Not Violate a Person’s 2nd Amendment Rights

In September 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that the federal law restricting medical marijuana use and gun ownership did not violate a person’s second Amendment rights. And although many medical marijuana patients who also happened to be gun owners disagreed, there wasn’t much they could do to fight federal law.

Although it’s not something that typically comes up often, it’s an issue that several medical states are having to contend with. In Alaska for example, up to 80 percent of residents are gun owners. There are over 1,000 registered medical marijuana patients in the state, and over 16 percent of the population is estimated to smoke weed on a regular basis.

What About Patient Confidentiality?

While federal law reigns over state law throughout the country, many believe that the island state of Hawaii has taken things a bit too far. After all, “patient confidentiality is a core component of the medical marijuana program,” according to Carl Bergquist, Hawaii Medical Marijuana expert.

According to Bergquist, “Law enforcement cannot just check the medical database whenever it feels like it.”

But this, it seems, is exactly what’s happened in Hawaii. Many are questioning how and why the Honolulu Police Department retrieved information on medical patients that is considered confidential. The health records of all patients in Hawaii (medical marijuana card holders or not) are supposed to be protected by federal and state confidentiality laws.

Hawaii News Now reports that because of this, the letter sent to patients by the Honolulu Police Department is now being “reviewed” by police department executives. It was also noted that although the letters have been going out all year, the most recent ones were sent out to card holders without the approval of Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard.

While it’s absolutely legal for police to confirm the medical marijuana status of a resident when the person is found in possession of marijuana, there are several people that believe sending letters demanding medical marijuana patients to “surrender” any guns they own might have taken things a bit too far.

Letters Demanding MMJ Patients to Surrender Their Guns Raise Several Questions

Hawaiian state law does permit “reasonable access” to the Hawaii Department of Health’s medical marijuana registry. This can be done for “official law enforcement purposes”, however does accessing the database to demand that registered patients surrender their guns constitute as an “official” law enforcement purpose?

There are also other questions being asked. Did letters only go out to current firearm permit applicants who also indicated they were medical marijuana patients? Or were they sent to people with existing permits?

One of the biggest questions remains however, if the Honolulu Police Department broke the law by accessing private medical records? HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is supposed to protect the privacy of personal medial information.

What remains is yet to be seen. The Honolulu Police Department has not yet responded to questions about the letters.

As one Hawaiian resident expressed on social media:

“Hawaii’s cannabis laws are all kapakai. Legal cannabis patients cannot have a gun, but alcohol consumers can! That is absolute prejudice. Patients who consume Oxycontin, Morphine, cocaine, and many other debilitating drugs are not forbidden from owning guns.”

Kapakai is a Hawaiian word for “busted, broken, in disarray, disorganized, ghetto-rigged, poorly assembled/put together.” You get the picture. We’re sure many Hawaiian residents feel the same.