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SD’s “Advisory Law” and the MMJ Patient-Gun Ownership Debate

Cesar Gallegos

by Cesar Gallegos

April 8, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Fact checked by Emily Mullins
SD’s “Advisory Law”  and the MMJ Patient-Gun Ownership Debate

In June of 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law that placed strict restrictions on residents looking to carry guns in public. As part of the 6-3 decision, Justice Clarance Thomas said that if the government wishes to enact future regulations on gun ownership, they must show that these restrictions are “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The decision and its interpretation of the 2nd Amendment opened the floodgates to legal challenges regarding federal gun regulation. One of the biggest groups seeking clarification was medical cannabis patients, who for years felt as though they had to choose between gun ownership and their medical cannabis card

In states like Oklahoma and Texas, federal judges ruled in favor of medical patients looking to own guns — saying federal restrictions are unconstitutional. States like South Dakota, meanwhile, took a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the ruling.

South Dakota’s “Advisory Laws” Play It Safe

Earlier this year, South Dakota lawmakers submitted House Bill 1037 (HB 1037). The bill mandates that state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries post signage alerting visitors of federal prohibitions against cannabis users possessing guns. 

The required signage reads as follows:

“WARNING: Federal law prohibits the possession of a firearm by certain individuals who are users of or addicted to marijuana. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).”

State-licensed dispensaries that fail to post the signage would receive a $250 fine for every day they don’t comply. HB 1037 has a clause that suspends the requirement should the Attorney General clarify the legality of medical cannabis patient gun ownership restrictions.

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Separately, South Dakota legislators filed HB 1024. The bill requires that state MMJ card applications contain a notice similar to the one mentioned in HB 1037.

In contrast to South Dakota’s timid response, states like Minnesota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have all added language to their gun laws stating that medical cannabis patients and caregivers cannot be denied the right to own guns. However, it should be noted that these state-level protections do nothing against federal prosecution.

Why The Government Thinks Cannabis Users Shouldn’t Own Guns

The Justice Department is at the forefront of the movement to keep medical cannabis users from owning guns. In federal courts, the Justice Department cited historical restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill and habitually drunk — suggesting that medical cannabis patients pose a similar threat to these groups should they attain a gun. The Biden administration made similar arguments saying that cannabis consumers are “unlikely to store their guns properly. 

While the federal government continues to push the stigma of “irresponsible” cannabis users, it’s interesting to note that alcohol consumers do not receive the same scrutiny. Sure, the 2nd amendment restricts the “habitually drunk” from getting guns. However, this restriction is not as broad as it is for cannabis consumers, for whom any amount of consumption is enough to disqualify them from gun ownership in the eyes of the Justice Department.

Despite not disqualifying an individual from owning guns, there is statistical evidence that shows that alcohol consumption and gun violence go hand-in-hand. A recent study from the Center for Gun Violence Solutions found that an estimated 1 in 3 gun homicide perpetrators drank alcohol before killing their victims. Further, the same study found that “a quarter of gun suicide victims were heavily drinking before they died in suicide.”

Using the Justice Department and Biden Administration’s own argument, alcohol consumption should by all means disqualify someone from owning a gun. But, of course, it doesn’t. 

Does this bode well for medical cannabis patients looking to retain their 2nd Amendment rights? Only time will tell. Make sure to check in with Veriheal for the latest updates on this ongoing debate and give us your thoughts in the comments. 

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