Since Hawaiian police demanded that medical marijuana patients surrender their firearms, countless people across the country with mmj cards who also own guns have been left to wonder. Can they own a gun and still take their medicine?
Can Colorado Gun Owners Use Cannabis?
If you live in Colorado or recently moved to the Centennial State, there could come a time when the same thing happens there that did in Hawaii. Smoke pot or surrender your weapons.
If you’re a registered medical marijuana patient in the state of Colorado and you try to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, you’ll be asked a couple questions relating to cannabis on your application.
The big one: Do you use marijuana?
In some counties, if you say yes, no guns for you. If you want to buy a gun or get a concealed carry permit in Colorado, you’ll have to succumb to a background check. InstaCheck is a system used by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to run information through the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS). Fortunately, according to CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina, “CBI InstaCheck does not access medical marijuana information for its background check process at the NICS state point of contact.”
This doesn’t however, mean that registered medical marijuana patients can own a gun.
Laurie Thomas is the coordinator for the concealed handgun permitting program in El Paso County. Thomas tells it like it is.
“They either want to smoke marijuana or have a concealed weapons permit. Common sense,” she says. “You have to have one or the other. You can’t do both.”
Isaac Chase is a Colorado Springs firearms instructor. He is also co-founder of the group, Guns for Everyone, who offers free concealed weapons classes to Colorado residents who can’t afford them. In 2015, they tried to gather enough signatures to change the application process so medical marijuana patients in Colorado could legally obtain concealed carry permits. Their efforts weren’t enough.
“In Colorado the law states that you cannot be an illegal user of any narcotics under state and federal law,” says Chase. “The goal of our campaign was to get rid of that language that said federal law.”
In Colorado, when buying a gun, people are required to fill out a form from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). One question asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana…or any other controlled substance?”
Does Colorado State Law Protect Would-Be Gun Owners?
Marijuana is legal in Colorado. Would that make would-be Colorado gun owners protected by state law?
Nope. Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, any use of marijuana is considered “unlawful” when going to buy a gun.
Lisa Meiman is a spokesperson for the ATF in Denver. She says, “Under federal law marijuana is still a controlled substance, meaning that people who are marijuana users are not able to lawfully possess a firearm regardless of the state laws.”
Edgar Antillon is the other co-founder of Guns for Everyone. He believes that some people in Colorado answer “no” to the question on the ATF form because they believe weed in legal in the state.
“The reality is that there are a lot of gun owners already who use marijuana regardless of what the law says,” Antillon notes.
Permit applications in Colorado are different in each county, which can also add to the confusion.
In El Paso County: “Do you use marijuana for your own medical or recreational purposes?”
In Jefferson County: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
Conflicting Opinions About Guns and Legal Marijuana Laws in Colorado
San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters says the whole thing is “interesting.”
“If someone had a medical marijuana permit and is on the registry,” Masters says, “and we also gave them a CHP, it would be interesting.”
He says that sheriffs in Colorado have massive discretion with the laws they enforce. He also notes that marijuana users handling firearms doesn’t concern him anymore than someone who drinks alcohol or uses prescription medication.
“Probably,” says Masters, “a better thing would be is just someone on the permit itself that says this is not valid if you are under the influence of any drug or alcohol. Period.”
Technically in Colorado, you cannot own a gun and have a medical marijuana card. But don’t expect another repeat of what happened in Hawaii. For now, Colorado gun owners who are also medical marijuana patients that keep quiet (like other registered gun owners across the country) should be just fine.
As gun laws throughout the nation get a closer look in Congress however, this could all be subject to change.