Lawyers, guns and... marijuana?
We've lamented in the past that most everyone seems to support personal freedom and small government right up until they encounter someone doing something they find offensive or frightening. Then come the demands for "law and order," to be enforced by the very police and government agents that were branded as nothing more than muscle for tyrants just days before. This seems to be especially true of decriminalizing marijuana.
Last week, a lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the Supreme Court to nullify Colorado's 2012 law legalizing pot in the state. The primary expressed complaint is that legally-accessible pot is being brought across the state borders into places where it is restricted and "may" increase criminal activity there. However, the legal complaint is that the state law in Colorado violates Federal law - and those neighboring states are insisting that the Feds do their duty and reign in a scofflaw state.
Keep in mind, Oklahoma's House passed a bill earlier this year that told the Federal government that its gun laws did not apply to any firearm made in the state, for the citizens, and that was not manufactured with the intent of exporting it from the state. Further, any agent attempting to enforce Federal gun laws regarding such firearms would face arrest by state law enforcement. There were few tears shed over interstate commerce during discussion of this bill. Yet, Oklahoma is now using the same argument New York has used to demand restriction of private firearm sales in neighboring states. "Your state government's lack of interference in your citizens' personal business conflicts with my state's laws and may result in increased crime, so you must be compelled to stop."
Even within Colorado, there is confusion and some hypocrisy regarding legal pot use and legal firearm use. There is the obvious conflict between state and Federal law - to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer, a buyer must fill out a Federal form (4473) which asks if you are an "illegal user" of certain drugs, including marijuana. In Colorado, it is not longer possible to be an "illegal user" (assuming you are of legal age) but recreational pot use is still illegal at a Federal level. If you have smoked or ingested any, the Federal answer is "yes," but the state's perspective is "no." Which answer makes you guilty of perjury?
Further, Colorado has a statewide standard for concealed carry permits, uniform across all counties. However, variations are being found across county sheriffs' applications regarding pot use. Boulder County inquires if you are "unlawful user of, or addicted to" drugs, in addition to asking questions about alcohol abuse. El Paso County asks the same questions regarding abuse and/or addiction but also asks if you "use, grow or possess marijuana for medical or recreational purposes...." No such question about use or possession of alcohol or homebrewing equipment for recreational purposes is found.
Not much can be done regarding the Federal case, aside from asking the Nebraska and Oklahoma Attorneys General to withdraw their complaints lest they undermine their own cases for Tenth Amendment rights. But, in Colorado, two citizens - Edgar Antillon and Isaac Chase - have launched a ballot initiative with a goal of enforcing uniform standards to ensure equal treatment under the law.
These gentlemen had previously been hailed as Constitutional heroes, offering free CCW certification classes through their bluntly named group "Guns For Everyone." Their message this time is consistently direct: If marijuana use is now as legal as alcohol use, it should be treated the same in terms of concealed carry requirements and disqualifications. There should be no question regarding recreational use by any applicant; abuse or addiction should be a disqualifier; and possession of a weapon - with or without a permit - should be prohibited if the carrier is impaired by any substance.
However, they are finding themselves getting a chillier reception from the pro-Second Amendment community because of "the pot thing." The prevailing stereotype is that a person who "unwinds" with a scotch every now and then is by no means an alcoholic and has every right to be armed for self-defense while sober, but one who "unwinds" with a joint spends the majority of their time stoned and therefore has no business carrying a firearm. Ever.
Regardless of your feelings about marijuana (or alcohol or guns or...), you need to look beyond the thing and look at the principle behind an issue. Do states have the right to govern themselves as their citizens see fit? Does your right to carry a weapon for self-defense hinge on whether you choose to use a substance - caffeine, alcohol, or pot - to influence your mood when you are not carrying that weapon? Or are our rights subject to the moral approval of our neighbors and the Federal government? And, if so, is there any limit at all to that precedent?
This is dangerous territory, folks, moreso than most might think. Consider carefully before making any judgements.
[Editor's note: We hope to have an interview with Mr. Antillon and Mr. Chase in the near future to discuss their motivation for - and barriers during - their initiative drive.]