Can You Own A Gun And Have A Medical Card In Ohio?
Are medical marijuana cardholders in Ohio allowed to purchase guns?
What about obtaining gun permits, a CWP?
What if a medical marijuana patient already owns a gun — are they forced to give it up?
Let’s try to clear up some confusion on the matter.
Medical Marijuana And Gun Ownership in Ohio
After a slow start, Ohio’s medical marijuana program was fully launched in 2019, making medical cannabis available in licensed dispensaries throughout the state. But what does this mean for gun owners or anyone who would like to purchase a gun? Given that alcohol and opioid users across the country have no problem with gun ownership one might think marijuana users have the same rights. But one would be wrong.
Thousands of Ohio residents are now enjoying the health benefits of medical marijuana. However, for thousands of Ohio medical marijuana patients, sadly, their new-found relief comes at a steep price — that is surrendering their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Why can’t residents hold a medical marijuana card and own a gun in Ohio?
Why should gun ownership be a problem for Ohio’s medical marijuana users? After all, medical marijuana patients aren’t known to be particularly violent and aren’t breaking state laws.
Unfortunately, however, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level. And as such, card-holding patients are considered to be breaking federal law and are thus prohibited from owning or purchasing guns or ammunition.
Moreover, patients are required by law to transfer ownership of their guns upon being approved for a medical marijuana card. However, few are willing to relinquish their firearms just because they use medical marijuana.
And as for concealed carry permits, the CWP laws in Ohio in regards to background checks are murky. There are an estimated 673,000 concealed carry permits in Ohio or approximately 1 in 17 Ohioans. Permit applications are processed by county sheriffs, and every applicant is subjected to a background check. Medical marijuana patients might or might not be denied a permit. And carrying a concealed weapon without a permit can draw stiff penalties — especially if a federal law is broken.
Clermont County Jail Administrator Joe Palmer, who is also the administrator for concealed carry handgun licenses, sums up the situation, stating, “I understand where (medical marijuana patients) are coming from. These people are not criminals, per se. This is going to be a continuing issue until somebody does something for these people.”
Is there a way around this dilemma?
Is there a way around the problem? Not legally. Although the state of Ohio doesn’t outright forbid the sale of guns to medical marijuana users, the federal forms required to purchase a gun specifically ask applicants if they are marijuana users.
Although the ATFE performs background checks on potential firearm buyers, federal agency are not supposed to be able to access Ohio’s medical marijuana patient registry. All patient information is private by law. So, although a gun buyer could answer ‘no,’ and be sold a weapon, they are doing so under penalty of perjury.
ATFE background checks can be extensive. If the applicant has announced their illegal substance use on a public forum, the application will subsequently be denied. Moreover, lying on an ATFE gun purchase application can result in up to a $250,000 fine or up to ten years in prison.
Law enforcement officials in Ohio strongly advise patients wishing to purchase a firearm to tread with extreme caution and carefully consider the questions regarding drug use.
Technically, if a patient already owns a gun when their Ohio medical marijuana card application is approved, they are required to relinquish ownership. However, the only way gun ownership would be a problem for a cardholder is if the patient or the gun is involved in a crime.
John Lenhard, Shelby County Sheriff and member of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee cautions, “If I had a concealed carry (weapons permit) and medical marijuana, I would be very careful. I think citizens need to know there’s a possibility of getting into harm’s way.”
Will the situation change in the future?
Will the disparity between state and federal cannabis policies be ironed out any time soon? After all, the majority of Americans believe the declassification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance is long overdue.
Although a handful of marijuana-friendly states have disputed the rule, no challenges have yet been successful. And the ATFE’s prohibitive stance on the issue won’t budge until marijuana is removed from Schedule I of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
There is some promising news, however, at the federal level. Recently, Capitol Hill lawmakers have been working on legislation that would reschedule marijuana or de-schedule it altogether.
However, this is a hot button issue that is still being kept on the back burner by Senate Republicans. And even if lawmakers drop a cannabis policy reform bill on Joe Biden’s desk, there’s no guarantee that he would sign it.
Advocates for cannabis policy reform are hopeful that the federal prohibition on marijuana will end or be curtailed within the next few years.