The Hawaii medical cannabis community is up in arms over the disclosure that our police chief is issuing letters asking patients to surrender their guns (“Cannabis, guns an illegal combo,” Tribune-Herald, Dec. 1). This policy, not mandated by state law, is an egregious violation of our Second Amendment right to own a gun and an invasion to our health-privacy rights.
Also, police have instructed gun shops to stop issuing firearms permits to licensed patients.
Patients, by registering for a medical cannabis permit, have relinquished sensitive and private health information to the state. By law, Hawaii Police Department’s right to access that information is limited to verifying a patient’s legitimate use of the drug and nothing more.
The police are overstepping their boundaries if they are matching medical patients’ records with gun registration applications.
It has only been in recent months that issuing these letters began. It is only in Hawaii, and not in any other of the 28 states where medical cannabis is legal, that patients are being denied the right to own a registered gun.
So why here? One possible theory is it is an attempt to reignite fear by stigmatizing cannabis users as people who have mental health issues or are violent under the drug’s influence. Therefore, they should be prohibited from owning a gun. Of course, there is no truth in this belief.
By far the greatest number of patients suffer from serious and debilitating illnesses, not mental problems. They use the medicine for relief of their symptoms and do not become violent in any way. Statistically, states approving of the medical and/or recreational use of the drug have seen gun violence go down and opioid addiction decline.
If this new “discretionary” police policy continues, it will weaken the state’s medical cannabis program and discourage patients from becoming certified, thereby pushing them into the black market. This will have unintended consequences and create additional problems for the police.
Dispensary owners also should be outraged about this policy, as it will deny patients owning guns from legitimately buying their medicine once the dispensaries open.
Patients should not be forced to choose between using the medicine they need or owning a gun. It is recommended that Mayor Harry Kim direct the police chief to stop issuing letters to state-licensed patients who apply for a gun permit.
Big Island Americans for Safe Access