Ohio Republican Offers Support For Gun Owners In Marijuana Legalization Bill

Ohio Republican Offers Support For Gun Owners In Marijuana Legalization Bill
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Democrats have already introduced a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Ohio, but now a Republican is offering up his own legislation addressing the issue; one that includes a message to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. about the Second Amendment rights of those who might want to lawfully toke up once Ohio’s law changes.

Rep. Jamie Callender, a Republican from Concord, Ohio and a former recipient of the NRA’s Defender of the 2nd Amendment award, laid out his plans during a press conference on Tuesday, telling attendees that with support for legalization growing across the state and around the country, it’s “time that we think seriously about where our state will fit in this growing market and position ourselves for the best possible outcome.”

The Ohio Adult-Use Act would extend the state’s current medical marijuana program to include nonmedical adult use; impose a 10% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products, earmarking the tax to the General Fund and to deal with chemical dependence and illegal drug trafficking.

The bill would establish controls on growing and distribution and prohibit discrimination against legal, adult-use marijuana. It also encourages Congress to pass introduced legislation that would deschedule marijuana and “recognize the Second Amendment rights of Ohioans who legally use cannabis products in Ohio.”

Under current federal law, Americans in states that have legalized medicinal or recreational use of marijuana have to choose between their freedom to toke up and their right to keep and bear arms. It’s a federal offense to be both a gun owner and a cannabis user, and even in states where pot has been legalized gun owners can and have been charged for simple possession and use. You don’t have to be a drug trafficker to face a federal felony, in other words. Merely admitting to smoking a joint on occasion could be enough to turn you into a felon.

Republican congressman Don Young has introduced the Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act in Congress, which would change federal law to recognize that gun owners who reside in states that have legalized marijuana can partake without committing a federal offense. Unfortunately the bill has gone nowhere since it was introduced back in April, and has only managed to collect two co-sponsors.

That could be also be the fate of Callender’s bill, though I suspect he’ll be able to get at least a few more co-sponsors than Young has managed to attract to his federal legislation. With Republicans in control of the Ohio statehouse, I’m not sure that legalizing marijuana is going to be at the top of the to-do list. GOP-controlled states like Oklahoma and Alabama have legalized medical marijuana in recent years, but so far the only red states that have approved recreational sales (Montana, Arizona, and Alaska) have done so through voter referendums and not legislation.

Coincidentally (or not), in addition to the marijuana legalization bills filed by both Democrats and Republicans, there’s also an effort underway to put the question before Ohio voters.

The proposed statute from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would make it legal for adults 21 and older to buy and possess 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana and grow as many as six plants inside their homes.

A coalition spokesperson said Tuesday the group applauded Callender’s plan and said it continues to welcome the chance to work with the Legislature on passing a recreational marijuana bill.

The proposed initiative also includes language designed to protect gun owners who toke up, at least from state prosecution.

Protect individuals who hold a license, as defined in section 4776.01 of the Revised Code, or other license, certification, or registration issued by any professional board in the state of Ohio, or pursuant to 2923.125 of the Revised Code (concealed handgun license), from disciplinary action solely for engaging in professional or occupational activities related to adult use cannabis in accordance with the Act, or for engaging in other enumerated activities in compliance with the Act.

I’m of the opinion that, like it or not, full legalization is coming. But until federal law changes sparking up as a gun owner remains a risky proposition, even in states that have given the green light to possessing and using pot. Proposals like Callender’s, and the ballot initiative that could go before Ohio voters, should put pressure on federal lawmakers to act, but the lack of progress for the GRAM Act in Congress is a bad sign for those hoping to nip this issue in the bud.