A Pennsylvania doctor and medical marijuana patient is suing for his right to own a gun. Dr. Matthew Roman, who practices medicine in Philadelphia, maintains that his Second and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he was denied the right to purchase a gun. The suit against the U.S. Department of Justice and Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Thursday.
In April, Roman went to a South Philadelphia licensed gun dealer to purchase a revolver for self-defense. But when the dealer asked Roman if he used cannabis and he replied affirmatively, his purchase was denied, according to attorney John Weston.
“The doc answered that question truthfully,” said Weston. “And the dealer said ‘I can’t sell you a gun’.”
A federal law passed at the beginning of the War on Drugs in 1968 prohibits anyone who uses cannabis from using or owning a firearm. In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the law does not violate Second Amendment guarantees to the right to bear arms.
Weston said that the court may try to reject the lawsuit, but believes it may be heard because of the tight restrictions governing Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program.
“Under the medical marijuana act in Pennsylvania, it’s my view that the prohibition doesn’t apply at all. You’re only prevented from purchasing a firearm if you’re an unlawful user of, or addicted to a controlled substance. Pennsylvania statute defines an unlawful user as someone who does it without a recommendation from a doctor,” Weston said. “Under state law, it seems to us that a medical marijuana patient with a state-issued card is not an unlawful user of a controlled substance. That statute should not apply at all.”
In January, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced that it would no longer provide the names of medical marijuana patients to law enforcement agencies. The agency had originally enacted a policy to add the names of registered medical marijuana patients to a law enforcement database in order to provide them with protection from prosecution of charges for possession of marijuana. But the department reversed course when it realized that the information could be used to deny medical marijuana patients their right to own a firearm.
In a statement announcing the change of policy, the health department called on the federal government to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
“Pennsylvania, and the other 28 states where medical marijuana is legal, need the federal government to recognize what voters and bipartisan legislatures across the nation have overwhelmingly called for, and that is that medical marijuana must be rescheduled as a Schedule II medication,” the statement read.
Attorney Andrew Sacks, the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee, said as the state was rolling out its medicinal cannabis program last year that prohibiting patients from gun ownership is unfair.
“You can be an opioid addict, or buy a bottle of rum, drink it and go to a store and buy one,” Sacks said. “But a person who is registered as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania, and has a very small dosage of THC, can’t own a gun to protect themselves or hunt.”
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