Hawaiian police sent medical marijuana users a letter ordering them to “voluntarily surrender” their firearms and ammunition.
According to federal law, patients who use medical marijuana are not allowed to own a gun. Federal law applies even in states that allow the medicinal or recreational use of the drug.
The letter signed by Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard says those notified have 30 days from receipt to transfer ownership or turn in weapons and ammunition to the police, Leafly reported.
What does the federal law say?
In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued an open letter to federal firearm licensees stating there are no exceptions to gun laws whether a particular state passes cannabis legalization laws or not. According to the ATF letter:
Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition.
Twenty-nine states have passed laws making it legal to use cannabis for medical or recreational use. California was the first to allow lawful use for medicinal purposes in 1996. In 2012, Washington and Colorado were the first to pass laws approving it for recreational use.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals upheld the federal law last year.
“It may be argued that medical marijuana users are less likely to commit violent crimes, as they often suffer from debilitating illnesses, for which marijuana may be an effective palliative,” the federal ruling stated. “But those hypotheses are not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”
Hawaii opened its first marijuana dispensary in August, and it may be the first state to issue a notice to users regarding the surrendering of firearms, according to Leafly.
How did police know who uses medicinal cannabis?
Hawaii maintains a database of firearm purchasers, who must complete both the federal ATF and a state permit application, and a database of medical marijuana patients.
The Honolulu Police compiled its list using the combined databases, Leafly reported.