×

Medical marijuana patients in Minnesota seek gun rights

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Staunch conservatives and advocates of legal marijuana have formed an unlikely alliance in Minnesota to pressure the Legislature to allow medical cannabis patients to own guns.

The more than 35,000 patients in Minnesota’s program can’t own guns as the law now stands because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illicit drug, on par with heroin, and prohibits anyone who uses an “unlawful” substance from purchasing a firearm.

So some gun-rights supporters and pro-legalization groups and legislators are lobbying during the special session to allow the Minnesota Department of Health to petition the federal government for an exemption. The change is being debated as part of the state’s public safety and health and human services budget bills.

If their effort is successful, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported this week, Minnesota would be the first of 36 states that allow medical marijuana in some form to appeal directly to the federal government on behalf of its enrollees. The ranks of the state’s medical marijuana patients are expected to triple or quadruple over the next few years under a new law that liberalizes the state’s restrictive program to allow smokable marijuana instead of more expensive pills or liquid extracts.

“The registry is going to grow a lot,” said Rep. Jeremy Munson, a Republican from Lake Crystal, who has been advocating for the change. “All of those people will be denied the right to get a shotgun in the fall to go hunting.”

Republican Rep. Rod Hamilton, of Mountain Lake, was prescribed medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis. After he enrolled, he was told he couldn’t renew his gun permit because it was barred by the federal government.

“In the eyes of the federal government, we’re all felons, and it’s just tragic,” Hamilton said.

It’s been nearly two years since he signed up for the program but Hamilton has never filled his prescription for cannabis. When his enrollment lapses in August, he doesn’t plan to renew it. But he will renew his gun permit. He said he thinks many other passionate gun owners will make the same choice.

“Do I feel like I’ve missed out? Absolutely I do. My doctors think this would provide me some relief,” Hamilton said. “I am prioritizing, right, wrong or otherwise, my Second Amendment rights over using, in the eyes of Minnesota, a lawful medical product.”

The Democratic-controlled Minnesota House passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana last month in the regular session, but the proposal went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.