NY Times Discovers the Conflict Between Marijuana Laws and the Second Amendment

(John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

As much grief as the New York Times deservedly receives from gun owners and Second Amendment supporters for its coverage of the gun control debate, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the fairly even-handed coverage the paper gave to the issue of legal gun ownership and marijuana use, which remains illegal at the federal level despite 38 states allowing cannabis for medical use and 25 states allowing for recreational use.

As a result of that federal prohibition, gun owners in those states where marijuana has been legalized are forced to choose between their Second Amendment rights and their ability to toke up, even with a doctor’s approval. It’s an issue that we’ve covered extensively hear at Bearing Arms, but to the best of my knowledge this is the first time the Times has reported on the topic.

One of the most interesting parts about the report is who isn’t quoted in the piece: gun control advocates. No Shannon Watts, no David Hogg, no Po Murray, no Michael Bloomberg. Instead, the only person quoted by name who’s opposed to allowing gun owners access to marijuana in those states where it is legal is Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana; a group that opposes legalization across the board.

To be fair, the Times also didn’t include any quotes from pro-2A groups, though I find that omission far less surprising. And the paper did give extensive space to both gun owners who’d like to use marijuana and marijuana consumers who’d like to own a gun. The paper interviewed Vera Cooper, a senior citizen in Florida who wanted to purchase a firearm for self-defense but was denied because of her medical marijuana license, which still makes her an “unlawful” user of drugs in the eyes of the feds. They also spoke to Catherine Lewis, who owns a pair of dispensaries as well as a grow operation in Maine, and who would like to own a firearm for self-defense if the law allowed it.

Instead, she carries a stun gun and wasp spray.

“I’ve had to get firm with my delivery policies because of safety concerns,” said Ms. Lewis, who is the board chair of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine Trade Association. “I need to meet the people first in my store or have their doctors vouch for them.”

Ms. Lewis noted that last month she received inquiries from some members who wanted guidance on whether they could protect themselves with firearms during the manhunt for Robert Card, who killed 18 people in a mass shooting in Lewiston on Oct. 25. “I told them to do whatever they needed to do for themselves and their families,” she recalled.

The rather positive tone was present throughout the Times report, including the final paragraphs. One of the tricks the print media uses to advance a particular narrative in what’s supposed to be a straight news report is to end with an evocative quote from one of their interview subjects. In this case, the paper didn’t give the final word to Gabby Giffords or even the anti-marijuana activist Kevin Sabat, but a guy named Phil Gruver; described by the Times as a truck technician and gun owner who obtained his medical marijuana card in 2017 and “decided to disregard the federal law.”

“I love guns and I’m not turning mine in because I believe that I still have a constitutional right to have them,” he said.

Mr. Gruver uses marijuana to help him with PTSD and depression that were brought on by traumatic episodes earlier in his life. The marijuana has enabled him to significantly cut back on his prescribed mental health medications — whose use does not bar gun ownership.

“The only things I’m killing by using marijuana medicinally are my symptoms and pizza and ice cream while I’m sitting on my couch,” Mr. Gruver said.

Here’s hoping that Merrick Garland and the DOJ don’t decide to make an example of Mr. Gruver for admitting to violating federal law.

Honestly, I’m amazed that the Times reported on this issue in such an even-handed way, and it makes their usual coverage of the gun control debate and Second Amendment issues all the more infuriating. Now we’ll see if the story generates any kind of legislative response; particularly increased support for the Gun Rights and Marijuana Act that’s currently languishing in Congress. That bill would simply say that in states that have legalized marijuana its not a federal crime to possess a firearm, which in theory would be something that both Republicans and Democrats could get behind. In reality, the bill, which was first introduced by the late Rep. Don Young of Alaska, has only attracted a handful of co-sponsors over the years and hasn’t even been the subject of a congressional hearing, much less a floor vote. The recent hit piece on the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant published by the Times certainly got a response from anti-gunners on Capitol Hill, but we’ll have to wait and see if pro-2A voices in Congress are more inclined to lend their support to the GRAM Act after the Times detailed the conflict with federal law, state statutes on marijuana, and our fundamental right to keep and bear arms.