Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Don’t Register Anything

Putting yourself on a registry of people who engage in activities, or own goods, that are even mildly controversial makes you vulnerable to abusive officials.

If we needed yet another demonstration that getting yourself on the government's radar is just a bad idea, Hawaii handed it to us in spades last week. That's when we learned that the Honolulu Police Department was putting the screws to people so honest—and trusting—as to comply with state laws requiring registration of certain goods and activities. They shouldn't have been so honest and trusting.

Like too many jurisdictions, Hawaii requires gun owners to register their firearms. Also like an excess of other control-freaky places, the state requires medical marijuana users to register themselves with the state Department of Health. As it turns out, those who dutifully abide by both requirements find themselves in trouble. Hawaii may allow the use of marijuana for medicinal uses, and even require registration of its users, but the state continues to regard the practice as a violation of federal law. As a result, Honolulu residents who legally complied with requirements that they enter themselves in both registries have received threatening letters signed by officials including Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard. These letters read, in part:

"Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition. If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department or otherwise transfer ownership."

Federal law restricts the possession of firearms by anybody who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance," and marijuana remains a controlled substance according to the folks in D.C. That's enough of an excuse for Honolulu police officials to try to disarm locals who've done their best to abide by state gun and marijuana laws.

But it's not just a Hawaii problem. As Jacob Sullum previously noted, "Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, upheld the ATF's policy of banning gun sales to people who are known to have medical marijuana cards, even if they do not currently consume cannabis." So putting your name on a medical marijuana registry anywhere has the potential to make it more difficult to legally buy a firearm.

Actually, entering your information into a medical marijuana registry can put a red flag next to your name in so many ways. Colorado marijuana patients have been surprised during traffic stops to discover that cops knew they were registered users. Cops are supposed to have access to the registry only under limited circumstances, but the data has obviously been shared more widely than many people envisioned. Even so, the state's Board of Health rejected a petition to block sharing of registry information with law enforcement, with the head of the board insisting, "We don't know that we are doing anything wrong."

The same issue developed in Oregon, where a 2012 news report noted that "Law enforcement ran more than 20,000 queries on potential patients and grow sites from March through October of this year." Unlike Colorado, Oregon deliberately gave police open access to the medical marijuana registry, and they apparently browsed it at will—at least until the courts gave them a slap. In 2010, a state judge told cops to stop running concealed carry permit applicants' names through the system, saying "the statute does not authorize the use of database information for purposes of helping to determine whether an individual uses, or may use, marijuana."

Complaints about police in Colorado and Oregon browsing marijuana registries for excuses to hassle people seem to have subsided in recent years, perhaps because both states have legalized recreational use, which does not require people to put their names on lists that officials can easily peruse.

On the other hand, states including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont are now under pressure to share data from their medical marijuana registries with the federal government. The feds swear that they won't abuse the information, but once they have it they can use it as they please—targeting people far and wide.

Speaking of far and wide, registries have been a source of hassle for gun owners who abide by the laws of their own states, but whose concealed carry permits are entered into databases and act as red flags to cops elsewhere. Maryland, in particular, is notorious for targeting drivers who are passing through the state, but who are revealed by a scan of their license plates as holding carry permits at home.

"The officers were searching for Mr. Filippidis' Florida-licensed, palm-size Kel-Tec .38 semi-automatic handgun, which he left at home locked in his safe. (Maryland does not recognize handgun permits issued by other states.)," The Washington Times revealed after one widely publicized stop. "When the search turned up nothing, Mr. Filippidis, 51, was allowed to go and was issued only a speeding warning." Other owners have been jailed for transporting their guns in ways that violate Maryland's strict laws. But even an arrest-free encounter with an abusive cop digging for probable cause can be a traumatic event.

Most of us want to minimize traumatic encounters with puffed-up authority figures.

We live in a world governed by officials who love exercising power to punish people they dislike. To put yourself on a registry of people who engage in activities, or own goods, that are even mildly controversial is to make yourself vulnerable to such officials. It identifies you as a target for such people, and outs you in a position to be singled out for special treatment.

That's not to say you shouldn't smoke grass, or should avoid owning a gun, or ought to skip other activities the government likes to scrutinize, regulate, and occasionally penalize. Instead, even when there's legal risk involved, to the extent possible you should consider living your life without making yourself an entry in a database. When officials set out to penalize people who try to abide by the rules, breaking the law may well be the safer choice.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Like too many jurisdictions, Hawaii requires gun owners to register their firearms. Also like an excess of other control-freaky places, the state requires medical marijuana users to register themselves with the state Department of Health"

    INTERSECTIONAL COLONIALISM

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Most of us want to minimize traumatic encounters with puffed-up authority figures."

    Speaking of intersectional colonialism, stop marginalizing Crusty and BUCS.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I just want to live my life. Why does no one understand this?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Probably because when someone walks in on someone on all fours in a kiddie pool filled with liquid of indeterminate origin being repeatedly tased by a middle-aged woman wearing a rubber form-fitting GRU uniform and babushka, their first thought usually isn't to assume you sought out the situation voluntarily. Society has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No idea what a Gated Recurrent Unit uniform. is

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    I'm sure Yevgeniya can find time to address that in your next reeducation session.

  • Rockabilly||

    Once you had a right to be left alone, then FDR, the socialist god, took that away.

    What was Abe Lincoln's social security number?
    Of course, he didn't have one.

    It was FDR, the socialist god, who packed with Supreme Court with socialist yes men, who in turn reinterpreted the US Constitution as if it was written by the demented Karl Marx.

    Then FDR was able to pass a law which mandated all Americans to have a government issued ID number for controlling and tracking purposes. The socialists say it's for your own good - you must comply.

  • SIV||

    Abe Lincoln never had an iPhone. PEAK LIBERTY

  • GroundTruth||

    And, with luck, I never will have one of the damned things either.

    But to mention Lincoln (who saved the Union at the point of a gun) in the same phrase (but without the word "not" included) as Liberty is a bit of a laugh.

  • CE||

    Abe Lincoln didn't need a permit for his axe either, or a license plate on his wagon to haul split rails into town.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Dis hillbilly guy clearly never looked into FDR's precursor Herbert "Ordered Liberty" Hoover--God's Own Prohibitionist--the man who in "building a new race" subsidized Hitler's rise to power via the standstill Moratorium on Brains.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Wow, more Hoover era wit from good ole' Hank. So original.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Maryland, in particular, is notorious for targeting drivers who are passing through the state, but who are revealed by a scan of their license plates as holding carry permits at home."

    "Vell, vhat? You ekhspekht uss to simply leht ze gewehr-Juden drrive troo our land vit nehry a vord off khomplaint? Iss zis land not off our blut? Iss zis not our BODEN?"

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Nice Tucille article to round out the donation drive

    Makes me think of the political nihilism podcast earlier. I feel like Nihilism is such an unfair thing to cast us as. We have so much evidence of not trusting the government. But not only that, there's so much good outside of it. I can't imagine only being able to see things in terms of the government. Too many libertarians even do that.

  • Rat on a train||

    If I recall precedent correctly, you can't be prosecuted for failing to register if registration would be admitting to a crime.

  • Jay Dubya||

    This is an interestinf argument: that refistration in a marijuana patient registry forces u to admit to the federal crime of marijuana use & violates constitutional self incrimination. Possible route to get medical pot states to fullpot states (?)

  • Longtobefree||

    You are thinking that the fifth amendment is still in effect.
    Where it protects the second amendment, the fifth has also been suspended.

  • MikeP2||

    The 2nd protects them all, regardless of what the social engineers and propagandists try to tell us about the Founders' intent.

    god help us when the time comes where it matters.

  • Bubba Jones||

    GLWT

  • Inigo Montoya||

    What about product registrations for warranty purposes? I know such info is held by companies, but government officials might want to get their hands on it if it was, say, pertaining to sex robots.

    ...Asking for a friend.

  • Longtobefree||

    Tell your friend he (she?) can't afford the robot anyway.

  • Radioactive||

    since when is a board with a knothole a robot?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    He added a couple of servos. Arms getting tired and all that.

  • Longtobefree||

    Again, Hawaii needs to join with California and secede to form the liberty loving nation of Pacifica.
    Win, win, win. They get to do things their way, and we get more freedom because we don't have to read silly stories about California and Hawaii. (we can suppress foreign news), and 4 less busybodies in the senate.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    And when vulcanism and plate tectonics turn both into ravaged wastelands, they won't be our problems.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    They can't have that land. Not one square inch. If they don't like America, then they can GTFO.

  • ||

    "Bene qui latuit, bene vixit."

    -- Descartes' self-selected epitaph

  • Hugh Akston||

    People who register for the TSA's Pre-[checkmark emoji] or Global Entry program are paying for the privilege of being added to the government's biometric database while simultaneously normalizing the security theater industrial complex that routinely violates peoples Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

  • Thrackmoor||

    Try to skip the security theater at the airport and amendments aren't the only thing they'll violate.

  • Jury Nullification||

    "...are paying for the privilege of being added to the government's biometric database ..."

    A very small price to pay for short lines and exposing one's self to a myriad of unknown present and future criminal statutes. Only a person with something to hide would hesitate.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    It's just myriad. No need for a and of.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    It can be either way. Hint: Select/Define is your friend.

  • CE||

    So many things are illegal, we all have something to hide.

  • Hank Phillips||

    True facts. Working inside the court system one observes that incompetent looter bureaucracies are really good at crashing hard drives and losing information. Most of these looter state demands for you to repeat the same damn stuff for the hundredth time is in fact evading the admission that they LOST whatever blackmail lever they had over you, and seek to trick you into handing them the very club they need to rob, beat and murder you. This is the sanction of the victim in its most suicidal form.

  • Jury Nullification||

    "...bureaucracies are really good at crashing hard drives and losing information..."

    Can't the bureaucracies just use a back up from the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center.

  • CE||

    I think it's called the Community Upliftment Council of Knowledge Server.

  • ||

    "Bene qui latuit, bene vixit."

    -- Descartes' self-selected epitaph

  • Eidde||

    That's Latin for "man, the squirrels sure are feisty today."

  • ||

    So true.

  • MikeP2||

    My county requires fingerprinting to obtain a concealed carry permit.

    yeh....no thank you. I don't need my fingerprints on file.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    That's why I don't have one. Castle law covers me well enough.

  • Eidde||

    "When officials set out to penalize people who try to abide by the rules, breaking the law may well be the safer choice."

    Just to be clear, exercising rights so inherent that they are specifically spelled out by the Second Amendment is not "breaking the law."

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    And when The State decides otherwise [FYTW] a jail is still a jail; and I seriously doubt they will classify us a "political prisoners." Maybe we could Amnesty International to do that...my point being The Constitution is no more than an artifact is it isn't successfully defended, and there seems to be a lot of I don't give a shit these days give me my Star Trek society.

  • GroundTruth||

    Thanks for the confirmation, JD, but why do you think the commentariate all have pseudonyms?

  • croaker||

    So we don't get identified to a curry-eating asshole with butthurtitis.

  • CE||

    My pseudonyms have aliases, and my aliases have bots which have their own pseudonyms.

    But I suspect Google will soon have an AI capable of linking them all together and compiling 17 years' worth of Internet comments, based on login history, travel records, speech patterns and predictive password algorithms.

  • MikeP2||

    FYI. those local/state police "protect your child" programs in schools where they offer free fingerprinting of your child in order to expedite any abduction investigation....

    yeh...don't do that. A casual conversation with the nice officer was quite enlightening. He knew what the game was....its just to get prints on file. Goes right into the system.

  • GroundTruth||

    Was there ever any doubt?

  • Juice||

    Your prints are going to be on file at some point no matter what. Pretty difficult to avoid for your whole life, actually.

  • CE||

    You need a thumb print to rent a truck, for instance.

  • JLW||

    Ive been curious about whether my firearms registrations are linked with my MV registrations. (I'm a NJ resident) I guess I should just assume the worst case. Haven't driven through Maryland in years.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    If you live in NJ I believe that is the very definition of "worst case." Only hope being your bureaucrats are too lazy, stupid, and incompetent to bring it all together, just yet.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I haven't smoked grass since a lid was ten bucks.

  • IceTrey||

    You should, it's sooooo much better now!

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The premise of this article is certainly why I wasn't willing to put in an FCC comment, and it's probably why there were so many pro-Net Neutrality comments out there. If you're the type to trust government (i.e. ignorant or stupid), you'll put in a pro-NN comment. The rest of us won't.

  • croaker||

    The attorney general of NY is investigating.

  • Dixon Sider Woodchipper||

    "If you're the type to trust government (i.e. ignorant or stupid)"

    Why can't it be both?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    That wasn't an XOR operation...

  • Juice||

    Sorry, I already registered my car. But, I refuse to register my relationship or firearms (um, which I do not own!), so I've got that going for me.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    ...which is nice.

  • CE||

    We should have just said no when they start requiring licenses for cars and driving.
    My grandparents said a driver's license was 2 bucks at first, and you applied by mail.
    Why did you ever sign up? I asked them.

  • Robert||

    While you're [not] at it, don't register for Selective Service.

  • Thought Oasis||

    So when can we expect a state/national "Internet" registry? After all, we gotta keep internet users safe from all those hackers, identity thieves, illegal online-gun buyers/sellers, evil bitcoin users who buy drugs online, etc. etc.!! Surely our elected (and un-elected) officials won't abuse that registry system, too....right? :D

  • CE||

    It's called Facebook, which is why I never signed up.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Driving through Maryland with a carry permit is grounds for a search?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I haven't seen any Shikha articles lately. I gotta say I like the donation drives. Keeps the riff raff writers or.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Out.

  • Donald Watson||

    I suppose this is the same liberal government who insists that local law enforcement is not authorized to enforce federal immigration law, but it's fine for them to enforce federal drug laws.

  • StackOfCoins||

    Instead, even when there's legal risk involved, to the extent possible you should consider living your life without making yourself an entry in a database. When officials set out to penalize people who try to abide by the rules, breaking the law may well be the safer choice.


    Yeah, but medical weed is only $200/ounce whereas buying it on the street is more.

    Too late for me anyway. Good thing I don't own a gun, I guess.

  • willard3rd||

    I had to register to comment here. Now what do I do?

  • Dixon Sider Woodchipper||

  • CE||

    In other words, Reason owes a retroactive presidential endorsement to Michael Badnarik.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online