The Honolulu Police Department has sent letters to Hawaiian medical marijuana patients ordering them to “voluntarily surrender” their firearms because of their MMJ status.
The letters, signed by Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, inform patients that they have 30 days upon receipt of the letter to transfer ownership or turn in their firearms and ammunition over to the Honolulu Police.
The startling order comes just three months after the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Hawaii’s capital city.
Federal firearms laws prohibit all cannabis patients and consumers from purchasing firearms, regardless of state legality. On the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Form 1140-0020, which must be completed by firearm purchasers, applicants are asked if they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”
Federal law has repeatedly clashed with state marijuana laws resulting in a growing point of legal contention in the 29 states with medical marijuana laws. The letters sent out to Hawaiian medical marijuana patients, however, are the first time a law enforcement agency has sought out state-registered MMJ patients and ordered them to surrender their firearms.
The supremacy of federal law on this point was upheld last year by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Interestingly, the Honolulu Police Department has cited state law, not federal law, as the basis for the order sent out to Hawaiian medical marijuana patients. “Under the provisions of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7(a), you are disqualified from firearms ownership,” says the letter.
However, the statues in question make no specific mention of a person’s medical marijuana status:
134-7(a) No person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition therefor.
Many states issue medical cannabis patient cards or authorizations but do not keep a searchable database of patient names. In some medical cannabis states, like Arizona, firearm purchasers are not required to register with the state.
Hawaii, though, maintains an electronic database of both firearm purchasers, who must complete both the federal ATF and a state permit application, and medical marijuana patients. That allowed the Honolulu police to cross-check and compile a list of MMJ patients in the state’s firearms registry.
Guns laws in the United States are notoriously well-protected. Are Hawaiian medical marijuana patients having their privacy invaded? It may be that closer attention needs to be paid to conflicting federal and state laws and what this means for the protection of the rights of the American people.