Pennsylvania Republican Senator Urges State Police to Review Firearms Restrictions on Marijuana Users!


With a federal judge has just ruled that the federal ban on gun ownership by people who use marijuana is unconstitutional, a Republican state senator in Pennsylvania is calling on law enforcement to take steps to protect the gun rights of marijuana consumers, particularly medical cannabis patients.

In a letter to the acting commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, Republican senator Dan Laughlin pointed out that under existing law, residents of the commonwealth cannot receive a concealed carry licence if they identify themselves as “an unlawful user of marijuana” on a required state form.

Laughlin posted a copy of the February 17 letter on Twitter on Wednesday and said, “I believe Pennsylvania can take a methodical approach to eliminate the bar on otherwise eligible medicinal cannabis users from acquiring their licence to carry.”

Cannabis for medical purposes is permitted in Pennsylvania but is still illegal on a federal level.

Laughlin advised the chief law enforcement official in the commonwealth that the recent federal court judgement “warrants reconsideration of the question on these forms,” despite the fact that he recognised that the state limitation is in line with the federal ban on gun possession by cannabis consumers.


I urge you to reconsider,” the senator urged.

Laughlin mentions “licenced medicinal cannabis users” in his tweet about the letter, but he doesn’t specify that medical usage is at issue; his letter to the state police only mentions recreational use. According to a law that was passed in the state assembly of Pennsylvania in 2016, medical marijuana is now legal in the state. Medical usage is permitted, but proposals for recreational use to be legalised have gained traction in recent years.

As more states legalise cannabis, some lawmakers, especially Republicans, have pushed to erase comparable state-level limitations on gun ownership, despite a longstanding federal ban on drug users purchasing firearms.

Recently, this month, a hearing was conducted in Maryland to discuss a bill that would make it illegal for “the ability to purchase, acquire, or carry a firearm…solely on the premise that the person is permitted to use medical cannabis” to be denied under state law. The bill’s proponent argued that the state’s current legislation “puts typical Marylanders in a bind.”

These bills don’t aim to alter federal policy, but rather to free marijuana users from further limitations in their home states.

But, opponents of the federal prohibition scored a recent judicial victory when a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that the ban violated the Constitution. The government’s argument for restricting gun rights to cannabis users “misses the mark,” said Judge Patrick Wyrick, a Trump appointment, in the judgement issued on February 3.

According to Wyrick, “a user of marijuana does not inherently belong inside that group” since “the mere use of marijuana does not constitute violent, forceful, or threatening conduct.”

The Oklahoma decision is only binding within its own district court and does not set a precedent that other courts must follow. The verdict will likely be challenged in court as well. Although this is a new phenomenon, it could signal a shift in the law between firearms and cannabis.

In Florida, former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) and medical cannabis patients have launched a lawsuit challenging the federal restriction on weapon ownership by marijuana users. However, Commissioner Wilton Simpson, who succeeded Fried and is a Republican, has just decided not to pursue the matter. The remaining individual nongovernmental plaintiffs have filed an appeal.

Legislative action by the federal government would be the most straightforward solution to the problem. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) presented a bill last month that would make an exception for people who consume cannabis and are doing so in accordance with state law. In states where cannabis is still banned, citizens would still face restrictions on their right to bear arms.

In 2019, Mooney also proposed legislation like this, although it ultimately died in committee.

Representative Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) is another advocate for federal cannabis legislation; he spoke with Marijuana Moment in 2018 about the importance of addressing the issue of firearms in the reform process.

It is unclear whether the Pennsylvania legislature will take any action on cannabis in the upcoming session. The House of Representatives is now controlled by Democrats, but the Senate remains under Republican rule. Yet, Laughlin is just one of a handful of Republican senators who have publicly expressed support for decriminalising marijuana use.

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro has stated his support for greater legalisation, making this a central plank of his campaign last year for office. Performers at Shapiro’s inaugural party last month brought up the policy shift, with rapper Wiz Khalifa at one point encouraging adults to smoke cannabis despite continued prohibition.

Former Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Governor John Fetterman, now a U.S. senator, worked to eliminate prohibition in the state, but they were unsuccessful. The two were successful in kicking off a pardon project that resulted in hundreds of clemency applications and, finally, the approval of over two hundred acts of relief.

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