Oklahoma state senator proposes bill to protect gun rights of medical marijuana users

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OKLAHOMA CITY – After Oklahoma voters approved a state question that would legally allow residents to obtain a medical marijuana license, a big problem arose for gun owners.

Once Oklahomans approved State Question 788, Oklahoma law enforcement agencies warned about a conflict when it comes to federal law and owning weapons.

“Using a controlled substance is a prohibitor, similar to being convicted of a felony offense,” said Meredith Davis, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While Oklahoma law allows patients to use medical marijuana, officials say it is still illegal under federal law. Since it is illegal under federal law, officials say those who use medical marijuana will not be able to legally own a gun.

In August, officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said they will have to enforce those laws.

“We’re required to enforce the state law, and we’re required to enforce the federal law,” OSBI Special Agent Steve Tanner told the Enid News and Eagle. “We don’t have any choice but to enforce the existing rules.”

Recently, the agency updated its Self-Defense Act License application to warn individuals who use medical marijuana that they should answer ‘yes’ when asked if they unlawfully use a controlled substance.

“That’s the reality to it,” said Tyler Miller, general manager at Wilshire Gun Range. “It’s in many ways an honors system, but just know if you go and answer in there the negative and it’s actually the affirmative, you’ve committed a felony.”

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Now, an Oklahoma state senator has proposed a measure that he says would end that dilemma.

Senate Bill 959, authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, would change the laws regarding firearms and marijuana.

Under the bill, it would still be illegal for anyone who is under the influence of marijuana to use or carry a gun.

"We currently have prohibitions. You can’t carry a firearm if you’re under the influence of alcohol or hallucinogens, non prescription drugs or even prescription drugs if they could have any sort effect or impair to your judgment or anything like that," Dahm said. "So, this would include a provision in that to say you can’t carry if you’re under the influence of marijuana as well."

However, the bill also changes the  clause regarding illegal drug possession.

In the new bill, it would allow medical marijuana license holders to legally get a concealed carry license.

"Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to deny an otherwise qualified applicant from obtaining a handgun license pursuant to the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act solely on the basis of the applicant being a lawful holder of a medical marijuana license," the bill reads.

"Federal law still has marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, so you are considered a drug offender if you do use marijuana even for a medical purpose," said Sen. Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. "There’s a little bit of conflict between federal law and state law. This would clarify that on the state level, OSBI would not be able to use that as a reason to deny somebody from carrying a firearm if they get their concealed weapons permit."

The bill has not been assigned to a committee yet, but Dahm said it will likely be assigned to a Public Safety Committee.

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