Well this is refreshing to see, especially in light of the fact that neighboring Oklahoma is now denying carry licenses to holders of medical marijuana cards. On Tuesday a new law took effect in Arkansas that’s designed to protect the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana patients, both by stating that holders of medical marijuana cards are not presumed to be a habitual user of a controlled substance and blocking the state health department from disclosing the status of medical marijuana licensees to the state police for use in determining whether a concealed carry license should be granted.
The original bill’s sponsor says that it is in accordance with the 2016 amendment (Amendment 98) that legalized medical marijuana in Arkansas.
“Amendment 98 had language that said no patient’s right or privilege should be infringed upon on the basis of having medical marijuana. However, this wasn’t extended to concealed carry holders,” said State Representative Aaron Pilkington (R) of District 45.
“There was an issue and a concern about what the federal law said. But now federal law says that gun rights should not be restricted based on patient status,” Pilkington said, “and so no other prescriptions whether it be opioids or others, prohibits somebody from having a concealed carry license.”
With all due respect to Rep. Pilkington, there’s been no change at the federal level. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug according to DEA classification, and while the federal government has taken a mostly hands-off approach to arresting and charging individuals with possessing the drug (at least in small amounts) in states that have legalized or decriminalized its use, Joe Biden’s Justice Department still maintains that any user of marijuana is an “unlawful” user of drugs who have no Second Amendment rights whatsoever.
The law now in effect in Arkansas has no bearing on federal law, and even cannabis users with a medical marijuana card could theoretically face federal charges if they were found in possession of a bowl and a Browning (or ganja and a Glock, reefer and a Remington, or the devil’s lettuce and a Daniel Defense rifle). The underlying conflict between federal drug laws and our Second Amendment rights is still very much unresolved, but at least medical marijuana patients in Arkansas no longer have to worry about having their concealed carry licenses revoked because they use cannabis to help them deal with their health issues; a very big step in the right direction.
There’s a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that could go a long way towards ending this conflict, though so far it hasn’t gained much traction. The Gun Rights and Marijuana Act wouldn’t change the federal classification of cannabis, but it would exempt from the prohibition “an adult whose use of or addiction to marijuana is lawful in the state or on the tribal lands where the person resides”.
The GRAM Act was first introduced by the late Rep. Don Young of Alaska several years ago, and was re-introduced by Florida congressman Brian Mast earlier this year. To date, however, only two other congresscritters have signed on as co-sponsors to H.R. 2772; Nevada’s Mark Amodei and Ohio’s David Joyce, both Republicans. This year’s version was introduced on April 20th (a little too cute to drop the bill on 4/20 in my opinion) but has since languished in the House Judiciary Committee with nary a hearing in sight. Now that Arkansas’ law is officially in effect it makes sense for the state’s congressional delegation to sign on, but whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen. For the most part, Republicans in Washington, D.C. don’t want to do anything to relax drug laws, while Democrats don’t want to lift a finger to make life easier for gun owners. That’s led to a bipartisan roadblock for what I would consider to be real common sense reform on the issue, and sadly, I doubt that Arkansas’ new law will move the needle in Washington, D.C. even as it provides some layer of protection for gun owners in the Natural State going forward.