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Hawaii, Which Registers Guns and Medical Marijuana Users, Starts Disarming Patients

Citing state law, Honolulu's police chief tells them to turn in their guns.

HPDHPDHawaii is one of 29 states that allow medical use of marijuana, but it is the only state that requires registration of all firearms. If you are familiar with the criteria that bar people from owning guns under federal law, you can probably surmise what the conjunction of these two facts means for patients who use cannabis as a medicine, which Hawaii allows them to do only if they register with the state. Some of them recently received a letter from Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, instructing them to turn in their guns.

"Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition," Ballard says in the November 13 letter, which Leafly obtained this week after Russ Belville noted it in his Marijuana Agenda podcast. "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 (HPD) or otherwise transfer ownership. A medical doctor's clearance letter is required for any future firearms applications or return of firearms from HPD evidence."

Although medical marijuana states typically register patients and/or issue them ID cards, Hawaii is unusual in making its registry both mandatory and accessible for purposes other than confirming eligibility, which is how Ballard knew where to send her warning. The letter, which comes just three months after Hawaii's first medical marijuana dispensary opened, does not say what will happen to gun owners who fail to "voluntarily" give up their weapons. But if police decide to pay them a visit, it should be easy enough to locate them by comparing the state's list of patients with its list of gun owners.

As authority for disarming medical marijuana users, Ballard cites Section 134-7(a) of Hawaii's Revised Statutes, which says "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." The relevant federal provision prohibits possession of firearms by anyone who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance." Since federal law does not recognize any legitimate reason for consuming cannabis, all use is unlawful use, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives makes clear in a boldfaced warning on the form that must be completed by anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer: "The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

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. The appeals court reasoned that possessing a medical marijuana card is a good if imperfect indicator of illegal drug use, which is in turn associated with violence, "impaired mental states," and "negative interactions with law enforcement officers." The 9th Circuit concluded that there is a "reasonable fit" between the ATF's policy and a substantial government objective, which means it passes "intermediate scrutiny" and is consistent with the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Most people probably do not realize how casually the federal government strips Americans of their Second Amendment rights, because enforcement of these longstanding rules is spotty and haphazard. Federal law notionally bars gun ownership by all of America's 38 million or so cannabis consumers, along with millions of other unlawful users of controlled substances, including anyone who takes a medication prescribed for someone else or uses it for a purpose different from the one specified by a doctor (for back pain rather than tooth pain, say). But enforcing that ban is difficult because the FBI and the ATF generally don't know who the unlawful users are. Hawaii has begun to lick that problem and therefore can give us a sense of what "enforcing the laws that are already on the books," as the NRA frequently recommends, would look like in practice.

Update: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that about 30 medical marijuana cardholders on Oahu have received warning notices from the HPD about their ineligibility to possess firearms, which it began sending in January. Since Hawaii legalized medical marijuana back in 2000, it's not clear why the HPD has suddenly taken an interest in this issue, although the recent opening of the state's first dispensary may have something to do with it. HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu told Honolulu Civil Beat in an email that the city has been rejecting gun permit applications from medical marijuana patients for years, including 67 from 2013 to 2016. But the letters seem to be a new initiative. Yu did not respond to follow-up questions from Civil Beat. I left a message for her on Tuesday but have not received a reply.

Update II: The Star-Advertiser reports that the HPD, in response to local criticism, has stopped telling medical marijuana users to turn in their guns. The Daily Caller says police will return firearms to two patients who surrendered them. The department will continue to deny gun permits to anyone on the state's list of medical marijuana patients. "This is a new area of concern for cities across the country, and we in Honolulu want to develop a policy that's legally sound and serves our community," Ballard said in a press release. "Formulating the policy will take time, but we want to do it right."

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  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    No, we're not coming for your guns; seriously, how can you even think such a thing?

  • Bubba Jones||

    "Drug users don't count."

  • Trolic||

    If you don't stand up for the rights of others who do you expect to stand with you when your rights are threatened?

  • p3orion||

    Whatever one thinks of either marijuana use or gun control, it's breathtakingly cynical that the state of Hawaii would use a federal drug-use statute with which they DISAGREE to sieze guns.

  • esteve7||

    "Seriously, we arn't talking about taking your guns away. We need to register them for safety, it's common sense. Really, the law would never be used this way"

  • ||

    Deep Blue states will use any means to deny citizens their rights.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Confiscation is the only point of registration.

  • dantheserene||

    It isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you.
    Ars Technica currently has a story based on a poll of gun owners which draws all manner of conclusions. I always laugh at such studies, because no gun owner I know would answer gun-related questions from a stranger. Heck, everyone I know would tell their doctor to pound sand on such questions.

  • JWatts||

    Every time I've read those type of polls, it's pretty clear that the polls were created by someone with an agenda and the poll is designed to achieve that agenda.

  • Duke of url||

    "Hillary in a landslide"!!

  • jelabarre||

    "Hillary in a landslide"!!

    Why not? It's the best place to put her...

  • Tionico||

    an avalanche would be more fitting. That cold dark heart of hers would be more at home under one of those.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The vast majority of "social science 'research;" is not even replicable, much less predictive. It is primarily the result of the researcher's bias.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Ars Technica is the biggest echo chamber around.

    Be careful, quite a few of the commenters are actually staff and will flag for banning any talk of blocking government tyranny.

  • dantheserene||

    1789-
    Indeed. They are always terrible on statist stuff, with the comments even worse than the articles. I strictly read them for technical stuff.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They can't help themselves over there. The tech stuff is far and few between, so politically charged stuff gets the web traffic they need. Just like Reason.

    Their black friday and cyber monday deals were not even as good, so it looks like their main articles are floundering too.

    Most of the smart tech commenters are gone or banned because they said something not-lefty.

  • Bubba Jones||

    It's like asking someone with $1B in bitcoin to publicly announce it. GLWT.

  • John||

    Put this story together with the story below about the pending case before the Supreme Court regarding the Third Party Doctrine and the Obamacare mandate for all medical records to be digitized and consider the following. All your medical records are digitized. HPIAA doesn't protect your medical records from law enforcement. And the third party doctrine ensures that they don't need a warrant or probable cause to collect information about you from third parties. On top of that, all doctors are now asking their patients if they own a gun and putting it in your medical records. There is nothing that I can see to stop police from searching medical records for people who admit to owning guns and also are being prescribed pain pills, antidepressants or seeing a therapist or doing anything else the police decide is incompatible with owning a gun and telling said people to surrender their guns.

    It is shockingly easy and we are always a thin line away from the 2nd Amendment being read totally out of the constitution.

  • Rich||

    all doctors are now asking their patients if they own a gun and putting it in your medical records.

    "Does my Super Soaker count, Doc?"

    *** both laugh heartily ***

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Yeah, i pack large-caliber heat. Weren't you paying attention when you told me to turn my head and cough?"

  • Rich||

    *** flexes biceps ***

    "Actually, I own two."

  • ||

    all doctors are now asking their patients if they own a gun and putting it in your medical records.

    Let's see... we've got Y93.D: V91.07XD: Burn due to water-skis on fire, W220.2XD: Walked into lamppost, and W61.12XA: Struck by macaw... nope, I'm not seeing any codes for gun ownership.

    I don't doubt the tenacity of anti-2A groups to continue to annoy both gun owners and everyday citizens alike but, considering the Air Force can't get conviction records to the various portions of the DOJ in a timely or reasonable manner, I strongly doubt the ability of the alleged scheme to kill the 2A.

    It'll be interesting to see how "or otherwise transfer ownership" holds up in court especially since we aren't explicitly talking about a sale or are explicitly talking about driving gun owners through the "gun show loophole".

  • Bubba Jones||

    You can search the free text of the doctor's notes in the new EMRs.

    Codes are important when you are trying to conduct research or determine billing. When you are just filtering for law enforcement leads, not so much.

    That said, we already know that 1/3 to 1/2 of households have guns. Why bother filtering when you can just go door to door?

  • ||

    That said, we already know that 1/3 to 1/2 of households have guns. Why bother filtering when you can just go door to door?

    This is/was kinda also my point. John strings together Universal Healthcare, HIPAA, and 3rd Party doctrine into an explicit back end around the 2A when extraordinary rendition is already a thing and any phone metadata between you and cheaperthandirt.com or your local gun range identifies you as a gun owner.

    Again, though, not that he's wrong and that anti-2A advocates and law makers/enforcers won't harass people in new ways and at every opportunity. Just that the harassment hasn't been overwhelmingly effective before and won't get more so if it relies on government-employees as physicians to prioritize violating peoples' rights above practicing medicine.

  • p3orion||

    "Do you own a gun?"
    "Fuck you, doctor."

  • Zeb||

    all doctors are now asking their patients if they own a gun

    Mine isn't.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Because you have voluntarily informed them that you are not a gun owner.

  • ||

    Mine isn't.

    Dad has helped a few physicians get their CCW permits. As a kinda-sorta 'kickback' if they have patients looking to voluntarily relinquish access to their firearms for any number of reasons, they've mentioned it to him.

    Somewhere between Fort Bragg (I think) and Sandy Hook, most of them adopted an advisory statement about ease of access to firearms and weapons with psychoactive compounds that they personally felt it would be irresponsible to give to someone with a loaded gun. Something along the same lines of "don't operate heavy machinery". No questions about whether guns were owned or not and, AFAIK, entirely at their discretion on a per patient or drug basis.

  • Tionico||

    both mine own guns themselves. One is, I think, a member of Dr. GO.

  • Ron||

    Every year my doctor gives me a questionnaire to fill out and I always leave the Psychology questions the gun questions and the sexual activity questions blank. I realize that once we have mandated single payer government health care I will be required to answer the questions if I even need a cold pill but i will just lie at that time

  • Longtobefree||

    I just throw them away.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    John|11.29.17 @ 10:10AM|#
    It is shockingly easy and we are always a thin line away from the 2nd Amendment being read totally out of the constitution.


    Another reason to never give gun grabbers anything, including background checks for buying firearms.

    Call any state legislation that switches to constitutional carry, 'sensible gun laws'.

  • ||

    "...the 2nd A. being read totally out of the constitution." As if the state followed the constitution. But you go ahead and love it, eminent domain (property theft) and taxation (theft) included.

  • billdeserthills||

    Then I had better tell my Dr about the fishing accident I had where all my guns were lost overboard

  • Rich||

    The appeals court reasoned that possessing a medical marijuana card is a good if imperfect indicator of illegal drug use, which is in turn associated with violence, "impaired mental states," and "negative interactions with law enforcement officers."

    The appeals court also reasoned that living in Hawaii is a good if imperfect indicator of alcohol use, which is in turn associated with violence, "impaired mental states," and "negative interactions with law enforcement officers," right? RIGHT?!

  • Rich||

    "A medical doctor's clearance letter is required for any future firearms applications or return of firearms from HPD evidence"

    ", given that, of course, HPD has not sold them off for revenue in the meantime."

  • SIV||

    "Socially Liberal"

  • Finrod||

    This is what happens in a state where the Senate GOP caucus is named Sam.

  • Ron||

    in other words don't tell the government you have guns and don't tell the government if you smoke pot and as a final note tell the government as little as possible since the government will always use it against you eventually

  • Bubba Jones||

    I am pretty sure every Hawaii resident I have ever met was high.

  • Duke of url||

    ^THIS^

  • Duke of url||

    *Replied to Ron.

  • Ron||

    works either way

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I wonder who said that government would use any registration of guns as a list for gov agents to confiscate guns?

    This is why government is worst the enemy of Liberty.

  • ||

    Deep Blue states will use any means to deny citizens their rights.

  • Longtobefree||

    Actually, this is the perfect argument for owning a cheap .22 caliber target rifle that is registered.
    When (not if) they come for all the guns, you happily turn over that one, and all your .22 ammo.
    Then wish the nice officer good day, and hope no one notices that you keep pouring oil on your garden so certain sporting goods do not rust.

    Welcome to the revolution.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Pack your hardware in grease before you bury the hardware. This has been done, with good results, during 70 years of the reign of the commies, in Eastern Europe.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I wonder how modern gun finishes would hold up with merely a vacuum pack? Then you don't have to spend as much time cleaning it when you dig it up. Presumably in a hurry.

  • Ron||

    vacuum pack then put in pvc pipe with caps at both ends should hole very well. 4" dia pvc for lever action rifles and shotguns and ammo other guns will have to be dismantled which is not hard

  • jelabarre||

    I figure you just need to have a lot of concrete statuary in your yard, made from Bannerman-grade cement, and plenty of "rebar" holding it together.

  • ||

    Then wish the nice officer good day, and hope no one notices that you keep pouring oil on your garden so certain sporting goods do not rust.

    Welcome to the revolution.

    Maybe it's just me, but I would take it as a sign, when they show up at your front door and seize the .22, that it's time to stop oiling the garden. I mean, hoping is nice and all, but it won't be much of a revolution when they notice that you only donated your plinker and decide to show up at KGB Hour while your guns are still in the ground.

  • Robert||

    Federal law notionally bars gun ownership by all of America's 38 million or so cannabis consumers, along with millions of other unlawful users of controlled substances, including anyone who takes a medication prescribed for someone else or uses it for a purpose different from the one specified by a doctor (for back pain rather than tooth pain, say).


    Wrong. Federal law permits anyone who obtained a controlled substance legally to continue to possess it, & says nothing about using it. Not only that, but if you're in the same household as someone who obtained it legally (or you obtained it legally for them to possess legally), you too may possess it legally. All uses of controlled substances are legal by federal law. Go look at it yourself, see if there's anything about use in there.

  • Big Ed's Landing||

    But, under federal law, there is no way to obtain it legally. Some federal agencies may choose not to enforce, but that doesn't change the law. Federal law does not recognize medical marijuana.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "The appeals court reasoned that possessing a medical marijuana card is a good if imperfect indicator of illegal drug use, which is in turn associated with violence, 'impaired mental states', and 'negative interactions with law enforcement officers.'"

    Oh, the fun that can be had with this approach...

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Reading stories about HI is a lot like reading stories about Great Britain. Cautionary tales are morphing into yelling fire.

  • Duke of url||

    I can't seem to find these exceptions to the second amendment.
    It doesn't say anything about "intermediate scrutiny", " reasonable fits", or even "substantial government objectives ".
    It only says " Shall not be infringed "!
    It's almost as if HPD Chief Susan Ballard has no respect for the supreme law of the land, or something.

  • billdeserthills||

    Nice way to screw over a bunch of honest citizens Hawaii

  • Big Ed's Landing||

    I have seen headlines in other media claiming that Hawaii is taking guns away from legal marijuana users. The fact is, however, that there are no legal marijuana users. It's still a federal crime to use marijuana, and federal law prohibits people who use drugs (yes, federal law still says that marijuana is a drug) from owning guns. The fact that Hawaii, or California or Colorado state law may allow the use of marijuana does not change of affect federal law on the subject. The local cops might not arrest you for smoking a joint now, but don't get caught taking it through security at the airport or posession/use in other situations where federal law prevails or is enforced by federal agencies.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Both the Democratic and Republican party platforms urged federal agents to point guns at people with plant leaves they imagine are Avatars of Satan--down to the cloven hooves. Examples must be made, so they kill a few now and then. This comes of weak-minded fools who vote against looter politician X so looter party Y can rape, murder and enslave them instead. These States are crawling with Thump and Hillary dupes able to mentally form a picture of cankles or orange comb-overs and cloven hooves. The dupes cannot add, subtract or divide when it comes to how spoiler votes have levered clout--clout that changes policy and laws. But they are good at being surprised when their puppy or child gets shot.

  • ||

    "...how casually the feds strip Americans of their 2nd A. rights." Really? How about all rights? How about all people, not just Americans. Rights are universal, not just for us.

    Who would deny our rights, without the state? Not many. The private sector is hardly a threat compared to it.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Registration leads to confiscation, always.

  • Ben of Houston||

    I am more disgusted how we have had directly contrary laws about Marijuana for years and the Supremes have not yet weighed in.

    HOW HAS OUR COUNTRY COME TO THIS? Internally contradictory laws mean nothing except that the law is not to be respected. If something is banned federally, then how can a state legalize it and license it?

  • ||

    Deep Blue states will use any means to deny citizens their rights.

  • tommhan||

    But buying alcohol every day and guns is OK!!!!! Geeze I hate government

  • Could not connect to remo||

    This is, of course, ludicrous, given the direct role that alcohol plays in gun violence and the sheer volume of crimes committed by armed and drunk perpetrators.

  • Myk||

    Illinois Department of Public Health tried writing this into the MMJ law. Yes that's right, the unelected tried writing a gun ban into a law passed by lawmakers.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So is this like the Kristallnacht laws of November, 1938, where Jews were suddenly barred from owning the guns which might have hampered their extermination? I realize there is a lot of Japanese influence on the islands, but am surprised to see the local National Socialist gendarmerie suddenly convert potheads to de-jure Judaism. Then again, I recall when a fistful of seeds or roots was good for a multi-year felony rap under Christian Ordered Liberty with military conscription.

  • Longtobefree||

    Uh, can we get a source here? Kristallnacht laws?
    Last I heard, that was the SA and a bunch of others who joined in the fun. The only part laws played was that they were broken with impunity. The cops were only protecting foreigners.
    It was just a street mugging on a national scale. The insurance payments to Jews were directed to be paid to the state instead.
    The Nuremberg laws stripped many Jews of citizenship, but strict gun control was left over from the Weimar republic. In fact, the National Socialist Worker's party actually loosened some gun controls, mostly so they could have guns.

  • George Peabody||

    ARREST illegal alien usurper Barack H. Obama aka Barry Soetoro to NDAA Prison for TREASON, I.D. Fraud Voter Fraud, Immigration Violation, SS# Fraud, Murder, ETC! PS: Criminal I.D. Fraud alien Barack Obama aka Barry Soetoro aka USURPER Obama is THE MOST DANGEROUS THREAT to USA!
    ARREST illegal alien usurper muslim-jihadist infiltrator Barack H. Obama aka Barry Soetoro to NDAA Prison for TREASON, I.D. Fraud Voter Fraud, Immigration Violation, SS# Fraud, Murder, ETC! Install CC camera connected to internet one way view looking in on Obama by Americans and the World to keep Obama from escaping. Pay 4 View at 10¢ of Obama in prison writing his $60-M memoirs with a pencil on toilet paper will raise so much money Americans will never again have to pay taxes. Add in Clintons and Soros in prison, and the Pay4View will be so popular that the $20-Trillion Debt will be paid off in 5-years. Arrest them NOW! Pay4View online! DO IT NOW ! Seriously!
    And, impeach these Obama appointed judges and Hawaii governor David Ige for putting America at risk, as in TREASON, for their own political agendas.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    OMG......there is a slippery slope.

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