Guns and marijuana are hot-button topics right now.
Most gun owners know by now that marijuana and guns don’t play well together. Federal law prohibits anyone who uses medical or recreational marijuana from possessing or buying guns – even if their state laws allow the use of medicinal marijuana. And, here in FL, our concealed carry statute says that a concealed carry license “shall be issued” unless the applicant is prohibited by the conditions enumerated in the statute, or is “prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by any other provision of Florida or federal law.” Yes, I know our current Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner and her office are flagrantly violating our state and federal laws by ignoring that pesky little detail, but that’s another story.
Our U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R – 17th District) has always been a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights. He recently introduced the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019, which would move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. (Before 1970, drugs were regulated by the states).
Schedule I drugs were deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and were unsafe to use even under under medical supervision. Drugs on this list, in addition to marijuana, include heroin, LSD, mescaline (peyote), ecstasy, quaaludes, bath salts, etc. These drugs are illegal under any circumstance and cannot be prescribed by doctors.
Schedule III drugs were deemed to be not as dangerous and are available by prescription only. The potential for abuse is less than the drugs in Schedules I and II, the drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and abuse of the drug may lead to low or moderate physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Drugs on this list include forms of testosterone and estrogen, and drugs containing codeine (such as Tylenol with Codeine).
When I read Greg’s bill, I thought “That’s a good start. It would get rid of the federal gun possession prohibition and all doctors would be able to prescribe it for various conditions, which could certainly be a boon for our veterans and people undergoing chemo. It would also spur legitimate medical research on the effects of marijuana and THC – how it interacts with other drugs, its effect on the brain (especially of minors), its effect on babies in utero, etc. Win-win.”
Well, others didn’t see it that way. They say it doesn’t go far enough. They want marijuana to “be legalized.” But what exactly do they mean by that? Lots of things are legal – tomatoes, tobacco, machine guns, vodka, vitamins, prescription drugs, Twinkies, etc., but they’re all regulated differently. If you ask three different people what should happen with marijuana, you’ll get four different answers. Everyone seems to want to have their THC-infused cupcake and eat it, too.
Here are various proposals I’ve heard:
- Only medical marijuana should be legal. These folks believe marijuana has legitimate medical uses and should only be available from any doctor by prescription. Okay, Greg’s bill would do that and it would remove the gun possession prohibition. A medical marijuana user would have the same constitutional rights as an opioid user. But, let’s think about this further. Will insurance cover it? Will it only cover some forms of it? Medicare costs are already out of control – what would this do? The minute third party insurers get involved, the price of prescription pot will skyrocket, just like every prescription drug out there. Also, is there a reliable instant marijuana test for employees whose jobs require they not be impaired? And you thought Big Pharma was a problem? Wait until you meet its incestuous cousin, Big Weed.
- Recreational marijuana should be sold and regulated like rum. Okay, so unlike the people supporting #1, these people are saying there is NO legitimate medical use, and it’s a purely recreational drug like alcohol. It would remove the federal gun possession prohibition, which is a plus. To get to this point, marijuana would have to be removed from the DEA Schedules completely and brought under the auspices of the BATFE. (Because they’re so good and efficient at what they do, let’s give them even more power over our lives). And, of course, to sell pot legally, someone would have to obtain a state license, like a liquor license. More regulation. And where would pot be sold? In existing liquor stores or in dedicated privately owned pot shops? Or in government-owned pot shops like socialist Canada has? Or both? Would you be able to buy an edible at a bar? On an airplane? There are no federal regulations banning alcohol advertising on TV – the industry has been self-regulating for decades – but will a newly-minted weed industry be willing to hamstring itself? Or will the feds use it as another reason to step in and regulate all alcohol and weed advertising? All this regulation and taxes (yes, there will be confiscatory taxes imposed to raise revenue and to “raise awareness of” or “to fight” something) will drive the prices up and contribute to a thriving illegal black market. We already have an illegal street trade, and medical marijuana pushers…I mean doctors…who will write a medical marijuana recommendation for anyone for any reason, so it seems the only people who would really benefit from this would be gun owners who don’t like buying their recreational pot on the street.
- Marijuana should be sold as a supplement, like vitamins. Because it’s “natural.” LOL. Yeah, I suppose if you chewed a leaf or flower directly from the plant you have growing in your organic home garden, you could say it was natural. There’s nothing natural about the commercial processing of THC and pot – the chemicals used are as bad as those used in tobacco, and growers use all kinds of toxins to keep bugs and animals from eating the plants. But, let’s go with the premise. It would certainly remove the federal gun possession prohibition. Pot would be loosely regulated by the FDA just to make sure it wasn’t pure poison and wasn’t marketed using pure lies, and it could be advertised on the radio, TV, and billboards, and sold in Walmart’s vitamin section, near the condoms and makeup. See anything wrong with that plan?
- Split the baby – regulate marijuana like beer and rum. These folks also don’t believe there’s any medical use for pot, that it’s purely recreational. But they think marijuana should be regulated by THC content, with the lower THC pot regulated like beer and the higher THC pot regulated like liquor. Yes, it would remove the federal gun possession prohibition. But we’d have all of the same problems I mentioned in #2, plus now we’d have pot being sold in Publix and advertised on TV.
- Split the baby lite – regulate marijuana like alcohol and supplements. Again, these people obviously don’t believe there’s any legitimate medical use for pot. This “solution” is similar to #4 except that the higher THC pot would be regulated like either beer or rum, and the lower THC pot would be sold like a supplement. All of the problems I mentioned in #2, #3, and #4 would apply.
- Marijuana should be sold like tobacco. Well, this seems to make some sense if you believe there’s no medicinal value in THC. It would remove the federal gun possession prohibition, and, in theory, only people over a certain age could buy it. Of course, we know that’s false as we currently have way too many minors using tobacco and vaping products. Of course, the FDA and BATFE would be in charge of regulating it, which shouldn’t give anyone the warm and fuzzies. Interestingly, during my research for this article, I discovered that the FDA’s rules about what constitutes a tobacco product are as broad as the BATFE’s rules regarding what constitutes a machine gun. Which explains why the FDA regulates rolling papers and e-cig coils just as the BATFE regulates things it deems as “machine gun parts” (even things that definitively aren’t). The FDA also has rules about “manufacturing” that are eerily similar the BATFE’s “manufacturing” rules.
- Marijuana should be sold like veggies. The thought here is that marijuana is just a plant, like an onion or broccoli, and should be sold the same way. Pot could be bought at grocery stores and farmers markets by people of any age. It would certainly remove the gun possession prohibition, but I somehow doubt that our society is ready to go that far. And, there’s a very important case, Wickard v. Filburn, that has allowed the national government to say that pretty much everything – even purely intrastate commerce – affects interstate commerce, and, thus, the national government can regulate it. So, we’d be right back where we started with the national government regulating marijuana.
- The all-over-the-map “solution”. These people don’t know what they want done. They vaguely think some pot should be designated for medicinal use, but are unclear as to whether it should be available by prescription or OTC. They don’t have any idea how some versions of pot would be selected for this treatment, but they’re sure that other versions of pot should be available recreationally. Somehow.
My point is that there’s no simple solution to this complex problem, and anyone who just says “legalize it” hasn’t thought things through. And, every single “solution” expands the role of the government in our lives and constricts liberty.
And what do I think should be done? That’s a tough question. First, as a small government/free trade/constitutional republic Libertarian, it find it appalling that the national government has any control over drugs at all. For nearly 200 years, drugs, like alcohol and guns, had been regulated by the states. I look at the history of Prohibition and the violence caused by that law, which led to the expansion of the national government and the creation of the ATF (now BATFE). And then I see how the violence decreased substantially when Prohibition was repealed. But we didn’t learn our lesson, and we repeated history with this losing political battle called the War on Drugs, and we’re now living with the violence caused by those laws tearing our cities apart.
Unfortunately, I can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and it’s likely the national government will just continue to grow in power as we continue to lose our individual rights to self-determination – all under the false flag of safety. If we lived in a truly free society, I’d support removing marijuana from all Schedules and letting it be sold like rum (which, in my world, wouldn’t be regulated by the national government, either). Let adults decide whether they want to use recreational drugs or not, and let them suffer the dire consequences of abuse.
But we don’t live in a free society. We’ve created a vast, suffocating web of government safety nets to “protect” people from themselves. More laws and regulations would be chained to our necks no matter what choice we make. So, given our current socialist-leaning reality, and since I think marijuana may have some valid medicinal value and should be studied further so adults can make educated decisions about using it, I think moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III is a very reasonable first step.