Recently, Elevate Holistics had the pleasure of speaking with an attorney who specializes in cannabis about gun rights and medical marijuana. Because, even though the DHSS has rules to guide us through the medical cannabis process in the Show-Me-State, there’s still some confusion surrounding certain topics like caregivers, possession limits, and cultivation.
One of the biggest topics that patients and potential patients want clarity on is gun rights. Would-be patients are concerned about losing their guns, and MMJ cardholders are worried they won’t be able to purchase firearms or that someone will come to take them away.
Who better to ask about this subject than a lawyer Mo Greenway magazine named One to Watch in the 2020 cannabis industry?
Meet Cannabis Attorney Andrew Goodwin
Meet Kansas City-based attorney, Andrew Goodwin. He’s an experienced litigation attorney who has always been interested in cannabis. He’s witnessed first-hand the positive effects of cannabis on his injured clients that have helped them avoid or get off of opioids. He followed Amendment 2 in Missouri closely and was compelled to become involved in the cannabis industry. Drew and his partner’s legal services have written and won seven applications for cannabis businesses, three of which are for their company in St. Joe, Vertical Enterprise—that means he’s versed in the compliance of patients, cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing. On top of that, he’s a cannabis adjunct professor at UMKC. (Sheesh, expert much?)
What Drew Says About Guns and Medical Marijuana Patients
Elevate’s Russell Colby asked Andrew if he could clear it up from a legal standpoint. Drew had to admit he could not, because state and federal law on the subject of marijuana are at odds.
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): Yeah, it’s a common question and I wish I could clear it up, but I can’t add much clarity because federal and state law are in conflict on this. What I can say is that, as you know, when you go buy a gun, you fill out that standard federal form, and on it, there is a question that specifically asks whether you use medical marijuana, use marijuana, even if it’s legal under state law. I forget the exact wording. If you check yes on that box, you will automatically be denied your firearm. If you check no, you will be allowed to have your firearm.
The issue is that while the laws are conflicting on state and federal levels, in reality, you are not likely to ever be searched or prosecuted by federal authority. Andrew goes on to illustrate this point.
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): If you get pulled over in Missouri, for instance, and you have your medical marijuana and a firearm, it’s very unlikely you’re going to get pulled over by the feds in Missouri. In fact, I’ve almost never heard of that. They’re not making traffic stops. It seems unlikely to me that a Missouri cop would find a Missouri citizen in a traffic stop or something with a gun and medical marijuana and refer that criminal matter to the feds for prosecution. That seems highly unlikely to me. But the technical answer that I hate to give is that, yeah, it’s illegal to possess a firearm and medical marijuana under federal law and it’s legal to purchase a firearm if you’re a medical marijuana card holder under state law.
The attorney then explains that the feds themselves are not coming for your guns. They’ve given assurances that they are not going to come and take guns away from patients, citing that they have bigger fish to fry and they wouldn’t waste resources on enforcing the federal law on individuals. Additionally, the DHSS has said that for patient privacy they do not distribute the patient database.
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): The feds aren’t going to come and round up your gun. If you already own guns and then you become a medical marijuana patient, the feds aren’t going to come to your house and take your weapons. In fact, I don’t even think they have access. Well, maybe they do. They’re not going to troll Missouri’s database of medical marijuana patients and try to cross-reference them with gun ownership lists. We’ve received some assurances that that’s not going to happen.
Gun Rights and Medical Marijuana in Missouri
Next, Russell gave a specific hypothetical for Andrew to address about being pulled over with a weapon and medical marijuana in the car.
Russell Colby (Elevate Holistics): One note on that is, with Missouri law, you’re not required to register weapons. As you said, if I’m riding around, it’s my right to have my weapon in my vehicle. If I’m a car holder under Missouri law, that shouldn’t be an issue. What is the protocol of interaction if I have my medical card and I’m pulled over and, say, I had my medicine in the glove box, and I have my weapon in the lockbox as you should? It is locked. It’s in my storage tote underneath the passenger seat. How should I approach the cop walking up to my car for a standard check?
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): Well, it’s the firearm that I’m always worried about. That’s the one I would alert a law enforcement officer to its presence in the vehicle. Just for your own safety. I mean … Is it Philando Castile? That’s that bad case where he had an illegal firearm and was shot by the police mistakenly. That’s the one that I think you should focus on alerting a police officer to the presence of the firearm in the car. If you get pulled over, I don’t think that you should feel any compulsion to say, “Officer, I’ve got some pot in the back.” Right? Because they’re not going to come upon that pot and shoot you. They’re going to come upon it and ask questions of you, right?
The attorney continues.
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): If you had just smoked marijuana in your car … Which, you’re not supposed to drive under the influence of marijuana. But you also, you can use your medicine in a private space. Let’s say for some reason you used in your car as your private space at home and it smells like marijuana and you’re worried the cop is going to ask about it. Maybe in that circumstance, you say, “Hey, and I am a medical marijuana patient.” But other than that, I don’t know if I’d recommend volunteering that you have marijuana in the car because I don’t think it poses a risk to your safety legally or physically. I do think the firearm perhaps does.
Russell Colby (Elevate Holistics): I agree with that. My general rule as a citizen is to communicate as little as possible apart from direct answers, and that’s not an open conversation with police officers. They’re there to do their job and I’m a citizen on my way. So as little conversation as we can get to answer his questions and move on our way, that’s what I always advise my friends and family.
Andrew Goodwin (Cannabis Law Attorney): Good man. Russell, you’re in the wrong profession, man. That’s exactly right. Yeah. There’s no need to share. If you ever find the law enforcement asking you if you consent to something, “May I search this? May I do this?” The answer should rarely be yes, if it’s going to be a problem.
Recap: Gun Rights, Medical Marijuana and Cardholders
- The DHSS is not going to ask you if you own a gun when you apply for a patient card.
- If you don’t reveal that you are an MMJ patient when you go to purchase a gun, you won’t be automatically denied. If you do, you will be.
- Federal and state laws are in conflict so that owning a gun and using cannabis is federally illegal, even if medical marijuana is legal at the state level.
- But marijuana is still illegal at the federal level as well. The feds, for the most part, choose not to interfere with state law.
- It seems they are towing the same line with gun rights and marijuana patients.
- It will continue to be this way until the federal government decriminalizes cannabis.
A 2021 MO Gun Rights Update:
In May of 2021, Missouri state passed a bill protecting law-abiding MMJ cardholders who have the right to bear arms. This new bill explicitly states that state police officers and other law enforcement officials do not have the ability to take away your 2nd Amendment rights.
The language within the bill focuses specifically on Missouri MMJ patients, giving quite clear protection for those who also own guns. Prior to this, the rules and regulations surrounding cannabis and gun laws was incredibly muddy. Not only was this challenging for MO residents, but it was difficult for law enforcement, too. Now, there are clear standards in place that set an example for other states across the country with unlike cannabis and gun laws.
To read more about the bill, head this way.
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Still have questions about your gun rights and medical marijuana? https://elevate-holistics.com/blog/medical-marijuana-patients-in-missouri-and-gun-laws/
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How to book an appt MO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4h39BlWd5c&t=6s
Caregiver questions? https://elevate-holistics.com/blog/medical-vs-recreational-marijuana-in-missouri/
Possession limits in Missouri: https://elevate-holistics.com/blog/what-exactly-are-the-mmj-possession-limits-in-missouri/