PA Lawmaker Looks to Push the Envelope on Medical Pot and Guns


Pennsylvania is currently among more than three-dozen states with decriminalized medical cannabis. Many of the state’s neighbors have already crossed the bridge into recreational marijuana. As PA lawmakers are considering new cannabis legislation, at least one Republican senator is looking to push the medical cannabis envelope even further with a newest bill aimed at gun rights.

Sen. Dan Laughlin has been working to shore up support for a bill that would recognize medical cannabis users as legal users in the state of Pennsylvania. The point of his bill is to ensure that patients who use medical cannabis legally are not denied their second amendment rights to gun ownership and possession. It will be interesting to see how Washington responds if such a new law ever becomes law in Pennsylvania.

State and Federal Laws Clash

The happenings in Pennsylvania are yet another reminder of the problems of legalizing a federally illegal substance at the state level. It leads to constant clashes between state and federal law. Since the push to legalize medical hemp began in the 1990s, federal law enforcement has willfully turned a blind eye. No one knows if they will continue doing so should any state attempt to legalize gun ownership and possession among cannabis users.

Granted, it is a sticky issue. Federal law prohibits anyone who uses illegal drugs from owning or possessing firearms. There is plenty of wisdom in such thinking. And for better or worse, medical cannabis users admit – merely by possessing a medical cannabis card – that they use a drug that is still federally illegal. This creates an obvious conundrum that some lawmakers are trying to address.

Here is the challenge: Washington sees no harm in turning a blind eye on state marijuana decriminalization despite there being plenty of disagreement over whether or not hemp should be legalized. But Washington is pretty unified when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of drug users. Establishing state laws that directly contradict with federal firearms laws could be a bridge too far.

Ice Too Thin to Tread On


The debate over second amendment rights for medical cannabis users is as old as the medical cannabis debate itself. In recent years, we have seen both court and legislative actions relating to it. For example, lawmakers in Utah passed legislation last year requiring all public sector employers to treat medical hemp like any other prescription drug.

According to the owners of the Zion Medicinal cannabis pharmacy in Cedar City, the law stemmed from a dispute between a local firefighter and a department threatening termination after learning he had a medical cannabis card. Zion Medicinal says that being a medical hemp user is no longer grounds for dismissal in Utah with one exception: being a police officer.

Due to the federal law against cannabis users owning and possessing firearms, police agencies in Utah still cannot use medical cannabis. Firefighters and other public sector employees can, as long as their hemp consumption does not pose a safety issue or impair the ability to work up to standard.

A Question in Need of an Answer

Whether or not federal prohibitions against medical cannabis users owning and possessing firearms is constitutional is a question in need of an answer. At least one Pennsylvania lawmaker is looking to push the envelope in such a way that an answer would probably come sooner rather than later.

The issue will be heading to courts regardless of what happens in Pennsylvania. At some point, the U.S. is going to have to find a path to a state-federal consensus.

Veterans and Medical Cannabis Access

Veterans who use medical cannabis to treat conditions such as PTSD or chronic pain face a significant dilemma due to federal restrictions on firearm ownership. The federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, which prohibits anyone who uses it from purchasing or possessing firearms. This policy places veterans in a precarious position, as many rely on medical hemp for relief from serious health conditions. The clash between federal firearm regulations and state medical cannabis laws creates a legal gray area, impacting veterans who seek both the therapeutic benefits of hemp and their constitutional right to bear arms.

Data and Research Gaps


There is a pressing need for comprehensive research on the effects of cannabis use on firearm safety. Current data is insufficient to conclusively determine whether medical hemp users pose a greater risk in the context of firearm ownership. This lack of evidence hampers the development of informed, evidence-based policies that could address potential risks without infringing on individuals’ rights. Research gaps also exist in understanding how cannabis affects decision-making, reaction times, and overall mental health in the context of firearm use, underscoring the need for studies that could guide policy adjustments.

Mental Health Screening and Firearm Ownership

The intersection of mental health screening and firearm ownership raises complex questions, especially for medical cannabis users. While mental health evaluations are proposed as a means to ensure firearm owners are fit to possess weapons, medical hemp users face potential discrimination. The challenge lies in developing fair screening processes that accurately assess an individual’s fitness to own firearms without unfairly penalizing medical cannabis users. Such considerations must balance public safety concerns with respect for medical autonomy and the therapeutic use of cannabis.

Legal Precedents and Case Law

The legal landscape surrounding medical cannabis use and firearm rights is shaped by a patchwork of court decisions and legal precedents. Several cases have highlighted the tension between state laws that legalize medical cannabis and federal statutes that restrict firearm ownership among hemp users. Courts have varied in their interpretations, with some rulings reinforcing the federal ban and others challenging its applicability to state-legal medical cannabis users. These legal battles underscore the need for clear legislative or judicial guidance to reconcile these conflicting laws.

State-Level Variations

State-level regulations on firearms and cannabis exhibit significant variations, leading to a fragmented legal environment for medical hemp users who own firearms. Some states have attempted to protect the rights of medical cannabis users, proposing legislation that would exempt them from federal restrictions on firearm ownership. However, these state-level efforts are often in direct conflict with federal law, creating a confusing landscape for individuals who navigate these issues. The inconsistency in laws across states complicates the ability of medical hemp users to understand their rights and obligations, particularly when moving between jurisdictions.

Public Opinion and Stakeholder Perspectives

Public opinion on the intersection of medical cannabis use and firearm rights is diverse, reflecting broader societal debates on both issues. Stakeholder perspectives vary widely, with medical cannabis patients advocating for their right to both treatment and self-defense, while some firearm advocates express concerns about safety. Law enforcement agencies and healthcare professionals also offer unique insights, balancing public safety with the therapeutic benefits of medical hemp. Understanding these varied perspectives is crucial for developing policies that respect the rights and needs of all parties involved.