More than one in ten people in Hawaii who were denied firearms permits last year were prevented from having access to guns solely because of their status as legal medical marijuana patients.
A new report from the Hawaii attorney general’s office reveals that out of the 328 firearms permits rejected in the state in 2016, 42 were denied due to the applicants’ enrollment in the state’s medical cannabis program. That’s 12.8 percent.
Under federal law, people who use marijuana cannot purchase guns:
“It shall be unlawful for any person…who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance…to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”
Despite the fact that 29 states now have comprehensive medical cannabis programs, marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I drug under federal law.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) updated Form 4473, which must be completed by people purchasing guns from licensed dealers, to make it clear that even state-legal medical marijuana use is disqualifying.
That form has long asked, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” People answering in the affirmative are denied the right to buy a gun.
Beginning in January, the revised form added a clarification noting that, “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
In Hawaii, the overarching federal policy has led to an increase in denials in recent years as the number of registered patients has increased.
A review of previous annual reports shows that the overall number of denials for gun permits in 2016 was the highest seen in the state since at least 2012, and the rejections specifically for medical cannabis are more than double the previous high of 17 in 2015.
“While an original denial cannot be appealed or overturned, a new application may be submitted and the appropriate permit will be issued,” the new report, released Wednesday, says. “Former medical marijuana patients can successfully apply one year after the expiration of their medical marijuana approval cards.”
Last year, a federal court ruled against a Nevada medical cannabis patient who had challenged the ban on purchasing firearms for marijuana consumers.
That led Donald Trump, Jr., son of the president, to call the denial of Second Amendment rights to medical cannabis patients “just another chip off the block of Liberty,” asking, “What about those taking other prescription medications?”
What about those taking other prescription medications? Where's the line? Just another chip off the block of Liberty https://t.co/ishv7PA0qe
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 31, 2016
Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a gun owner, has also pushed the federal government on the issue.
But the National Rifle Association hasn’t been particularly vocal about the issue, despite the fervor with which it usually opposes efforts to restrict gun rights.