Cannabis prohibition is on a collision course with the Second Amendment. According to U.S. law, anyone who uses cannabis - medicinally or recreationally - is barred from possessing firearms. But a Republican senator has taken up the fight for cannabis users who don't want to see their constitutional rights go up in smoke.
The legal conflict stems from the Gun Control Act of 1968, which says, "It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person... is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance [as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act]."
Since cannabis remains federally prohibited under the CSA, cannabis consumers can't tote guns legally, even if they use marijuana to treat health conditions like cancer, AIDS and PTSD.
The 1968 gun law wasn't much of an issue years ago, when only a handful of states had legalized medical marijuana and none had okayed recreational marijuana use. But now 29 states - nearly two-thirds of the country - allow medicinal use. And eight of those - including Alaska, California and Massachusetts - have legalized recreational cannabis as well. So the federal government needs to address the issue sooner than later.
And the push for reform is being led by an unlikely source: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who doesn't use cannabis and opposed legalization in her state.
“I don’t like marijuana - I voted against legalization - but we passed it,” Senator Murkowski told The Wall Street Journal.
As a result, she doesn't want to see her constituents lose the right to bear arms because of marijuana. That's why she wrote a letter calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review the gun control law.
“In my judgment, the disqualification of an entire class of marijuana users acting consistent with state law from possessing any firearm merits a review of federal legal policy,” Murkowski wrote.
So will gun lobbyists join the legalization movement? Michael Hammond of the activist group Gun Owners of America (GOA) says that uniting the two causes has been discussed before.
"We’ve talked about it," Hammond told Civilized last spring. "I don’t think we have a formal position on whether [cannabis] should be legal or illegal. But we’ve talked about it with people who are thrilled about gun control and don’t understand the vast numbers of people who use marijuana who are technically prohibited and are considered felons because of our goofy gun control laws... But I will say this, for those people who want to seize everyone’s guns, and say I want to smoke marijuana - they're saying I want more freedom for me, and less for you."
So cannabis consumers would have to get onside with gun owners if they want groups like GOA to help them. Or in Hammond's words, "People who want marijuana legalized should stand up for the rights of others, including gun owners."
Banner image: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. (U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr.com)