Some medical marijuana patients in Illinois could face a tough choice once the state’s MMJ program is up and running: Give up your pot or give up your guns.
Under a rule proposed by state regulators this month, patients who qualify for medical weed would be required to hand over their firearms, even if they’re legally entitled to own them. The proposal was part of a larger regulatory plan outlined by officials Jan. 21.
Illinois adopted medical pot last year, becoming the 20th state to do so. One other state, New York, has since followed suit.
Officials in Illinois will spend the next year drafting rules and guidelines for MMJ. The State Department of Public Health is accepting public comment on this first set of rules until Feb. 7 and will deliver them to lawmakers by April for approval.
The rules proposed in January cover a wide variety of issues, from how patients can register for ID cards to who can buy weed. One rule would prevent patients or their caregivers from keeping guns, even with a concealed carry permit or firearm owner’s ID.
A spokesman for the NRA told The Chicago Tribune the organization didn’t take an official position on the proposal, but he said state officials appeared to be trying to interpret federal law, which prohibits “unlawful” drug users from buying firearms.
Weed is illegal under federal law, even though it’s legal as medicine in Illinois and 20 other states, and for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington State. Illinois has disavowed liability for federal prosecution and other problems arising from this legal conflict.
“It presents a novel legal conundrum,” said Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the NRA. “The courts are going to have to reconcile it.”
MMJ in Illinois is launching with a four-year pilot program, signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last summer. Patients with any of about 40 debilitating medical conditions, from cancer and HIV to lupus and glaucoma, can use cannabis as medication with doctors’ recommendations. A medical pot patient must have an established relationship with the physician who prescribes the weed.
The state law allows patients to buy 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks, though a doctor could increase that limit if necessary.
Under the proposed regulations, patients could designate caregivers who could buy their pot and carry it for them. Patient and caregiver would be subject to criminal background checks, and both – even patients – would be turned down if they have a felony record for a violent crime or drug possession, including possession of marijuana.
The program wouldn’t allow underage patients to use medical weed, unlike some other states, and would require a “bona fide” relationship between doctor and patient. Officials would have about six months to process patient applications, and patients would need to refile each year.
Medicinal cannabis would be prohibited at child care facilities, on school property, in school buses and at correctional facilities. It would also be banned in all vehicles, unless transported in a sealed, inaccessible container.
Cops, firefighters, bus drivers and non-patients would all be barred from using MMJ in Illinois.