Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
The Obama administration has a zero tolerance policy on enforcing federal drug laws, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske recently told the National Press Club. So why should gun-owners be paying attention?
The website for the Office of National Drug Policy includes this warning: “Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people. … Marijuana contains chemicals that can change how the brain works. And the science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences of marijuana use, is clear: marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.”
Why, then, hasn’t the Obama administration launched legal action against Colorado and Washington, where voters last fall voted to “legalize” marijuana under their state laws – even though federal law doesn’t allow that?
After all, the White House has been more than emphatic that state laws exempting people from the federal Obamacare law are invalid, and when Arizona took it upon itself to adopt a state law to enforce federal immigration restrictions, Washington went after those renegades immediately in the courts.
Is there something about the idea of legalizing marijuana that Washington LIKES?
That seemingly strange idea may have been borne out just days ago when the Congressional Research Service released its report on the “State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues.”
As attorneys Todd Garvey and Brian Yeh wrote in the report, Washington has flexibility regarding drug prosecution, stating, “The extent to which federal authorities will actually seek to prosecute individuals who are engaged in marijuana-related activities in Colorado and Washington remains uncertain. President Obama himself has suggested the prosecuting simple possession is not a priority, while the Department of Justice has said only that ‘growing, selling or possession any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.’”
What is more certain, they wrote, is that federal firearms regulators will be aggressive about banning anyone who uses marijuana from buying – or possessing – a weapon.
“With the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington, it seems likely the ATF will … consider a recreational user of marijuana to be a prohibited possessor of firearms regardless of whether the use is lawful under state provisions,” they wrote.
The attorneys said the ATF specifically has stated, “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”
They further wrote, “These individuals are to answer ‘yes’ when asked on the firearms transfer form if they are unlawful users of a controlled substance.”
Answering falsely, of course, is also a felony.
According to the Denver Post, the CRS report was touted by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., an advocate of legalized marijuana, for saying that while “the federal government may use its power of the purse to encourage states to adopt certain criminal laws … it … is limited in its ability to directly influence state policy by the Tenth Amendment.”
Polis told the Post, “I’ve long believed that Colorado, Washington and other states that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana for personal or medical use have acted within the legal bounds of the law.”
But Obama attacked a state decision to enforce federal immigration standards, so why, as the Post reports, are “Colorado, Washington and 17 other jurisdictions … still holding out for any word from the Department of Justice on whether marijuana possession and distribution – which is illegal under federal law – will be enforced, despite the legalization within local borders.”
“A source with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington, D.C. … confirmed what had been explained in a Sept. 21, 2011, letter from Arthur Herbert, assistant director for enforcement programs and services to firearms retailers…
“Washington state gun owners need to know they cannot get stoned and head for the gun range or hunting camp,” he wrote.
A letter from Herbert, at the time, blew out of the water the option for the libertarian concept of unrestricted guns and unrestricted marijuana.
“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such is sanctioned by state law,” he wrote. Even selling a gun to someone can catch an owner outside the law.
“An inference of current use may be drawn from evidence of a recent use or possession of a controlled substance or a pattern of use or possession that reasonably covers the present time,” Herbert wrote.
Workman told WND his assumption is that the Obama administration is hesitant to step on the toes of marijuana users who may support the left-leaning administration.
At the same time, with Obama’s agenda for gun rules, regulations, restrictions and requirements looming large, anything that has the potential to trip up a gun owner couldn’t be all bad.
The problem arises when the agency wants to appoint a fiduciary – someone to advise a disabled veteran or one receiving certain government benefits – to help with the management of those benefits.
The government then routinely notifies the FBI’s NICS system, a federally maintained list of those whose competency has been challenged, and that means they no longer can purchase a gun – or even keep the one they may have.
Michael Connelly, executive director of the USJF, told WND the initial lawsuit is to compel the VA to respond to two requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The information requested included Veterans Benefits Administration rules, regulations and criteria for making ‘determinations of incompetency due to a physical or mental condition of a benefit recipient,’” the legal team explained.
“The USJF has received numerous complaints from military veterans around the country who are being declared incompetent to handle their own financial affairs and then told that they can no longer purchase or own firearms or ammunition,” said Connelly. “This determination is being made without due process protections for the veterans and the basis for the incompetency ruling is often arbitrary and without a factual or legal basis.”
CRS attorneys, however, note that there doesn’t have to be a huge case for an American to pay huge consequences.
“Given the Obama administration’s informal statements and current approach to medical marijuana, it would appear unlikely that the DOJ is going to expend significant resources to investigate and prosecute individuals who merely possess and use less than one ounce of marijuana, in private, pursuant to Washington or Colorado Law,” they wrote.
“However, even if the probability of becoming the subject of a federal criminal prosecution for a violation … appears remote, there does exist a number of other consequences under federal law that are triggered by the mere use of marijuana, even absent an arrest or conviction.
“Most prominently among these concerns is the possibility that marijuana users may lose their ability to purchase and possess a firearm …”