Joshua Raines, a 31-year-old Iraq war veteran, fits an increasingly common profile of a medical cannabis user in America. Raines smokes weed he acquires illegally to control epilepsy and other symptoms of the traumatic brain injury he suffered following a roadside bomb explosion while deployed.
Raines also lives in a red state — in his case, Texas. This means he also typifies an ongoing showdown felt keenly in gun-friendly states that are experimenting with legal marijuana, such as Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as Texas, where there are 1.3 million registered firearms, according to the Associated Press.
Registering as a medical marijuana patient would mean Raines would have to surrender his legally purchased firearms. And that is something he is refusing to do, choosing instead to keep his guns while buying weed on the illicit market. He’ll run this risk rather than trade away his rights “like baseball cards,” as he told the Dallas Morning News.
Raines’s predicament is nothing new in the marijuana-policy debate in America. What is relatively new is the venue and the players involved: a conservative state, and conservative-championed military veterans.
“To tell Texans you can’t purchase a firearm if you have a compassionate use card is unconscionable,” Rachel Malone, the Texas director of firearms advocacy group Gun Owners for America, told the Dallas Morning News. “We should not force people to choose between gun ownership and taking care of themselves.”
This development would seem to lean in marijuana users’ favor. How long can conservative lawmakers and the gun lobby defy red-blooded, red-state Americans’ desires to fulfill their constitutional rights?
How long can conservative lawmakers and the gun lobby defy red-blooded, red-state Americans’ desires to fulfill their constitutional rights?
An awfully long time, it appears. Maybe forever!
Cannabis users can possess guns legally in America, but in order to do so, they have to lie to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. There’s a questionnaire that gun users must fill out in order to acquire a federal license, and on the questionnaire, there’s a line specifically asking if the individual in question uses medical cannabis.
Answering “no” potentially opens up the applicant for federal perjury charges, though it’s unclear how many times a U.S. attorney has pursued such a case against a gun-owning weed user. And it’s also unclear what a recreational marijuana user is supposed to do. The form, as MGRetailer.com noted, was written in 2001, when a handful of states had medical marijuana and no state had recreational cannabis. Does this mean a gun owner in Colorado — or the more gun-restrictive state of California— enjoy more rights than one in Texas?
The gun lobby wields significant power in America, successfully beating back most every effort at tightened gun-control laws. Texas, it should be noted, was the venue for exactly such a battle this year. Despite sponsorship from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a bill that would have merely funded a $1 million dollar gun storage advocacy campaign died in committee.
Thus, extending gun ownership rights to more Texans would seem to be the thing to do. Doing that would require a change of federal law. And a bill in Congress introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexander Mooney that would have done just is also in committee limbo, dead for want of a hearing.
Raines’s willingness to openly state in a mainstream news article that he’s breaking the law rather than follow the strictures of a law he thinks is wrong and bad is telling — this won’t be the indignity that gun owners or marijuana users will suffer silently. Even if they have to suffer it indefinitely. This is exactly the kind of issue the gun lobby was made for. When will the “big guns” like the NRA step up?
TELL US, do you think medical marijuana users should be able to own a gun?