HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The federal government’s stance on marijuana is impacting medical marijuana patients’ jobs, hobbies and sense of protection. Marijuana remains a schedule one drug at the federal level, so medical marijuana users can’t get firearm permits.
“I have 3-4 good hours a day,” said Benjamin Hall, who lives in McClure. “I went from that to like, 10-12 hours. I didn’t have any pain.”
Hall is talking about when he tried medical marijuana in Colorado.
The Marine Corps veteran with a service-related disability has several of the 23 qualifying conditions to be a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania.
But, he’s hesitant to get his card.
“I also own 20-something long guns,” said Hall.
Hall was a hunter most of his life.
He says even though nothing has worked for him as well as medical marijuana, he won’t get it here.
“The risk isn’t worth the reward at this point,” said Hall. “So I give up all my Second Amendment rights?”
Federal law doesn’t recognize any state medical marijuana program, and considers cannabis to be a schedule one controlled substance. That means users can’t have guns.
“The statute and the concealed carry application both ask the question, ‘are you otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law,” said Patrick Nightingale, a criminal defense attorney and a leader of the marijuana advocate group NORML.
There are efforts to remove medical marijuana from the class one drug list, including the MORE Act.
“That stands for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement,” said Nightingale.
Nightingale says the legislation would immediately restore those Second Amendment rights.
The bill passed the U.S. House last year and got sent off to the Senate.
Nightingale says in the meantime, PA lawmakers can take action.
“We can amend the language of the section of our uniform firearms act that says, ‘are you otherwise prohibited under federal law,” said Nightingale.
But is it safe for medical marijuana patients to have guns?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health wouldn’t weigh in on the debate.
Nightingale tells us it’s all about responsible use.
“I don’t think we have seen any incidents whatsoever of a Pennsylvania medical cannabis patient acting in an extreme reckless manner,” said Nightingale.
Some consider it a double standard, since the government doesn’t stop other kinds of patients from owning weapons.
“We do not strip firearm possession from individuals using powerful prescription narcotics,” said Nightingale.
Hall says doctors have tried to prescribe him medicines with strong side effects, but he avoids them, after knowing so many fellow veterans who got hooked on opioids.
He’s just hoping he can some day be pain-free by using medical marijuana.
“They’ll give you all that stuff and you can have 50 AR-15s or whatever,” said Nightingale. “I don’t have any interest in getting high. I really don’t. I know a lot of people think that’s what you’re up to.”
abc27 asked the state Department of Health whether it would support a change in legislation to allow medical marijuana patients to possess firearms.
A spokesperson responded by saying the department cannot provide legal advice on the topic.