By Van Smith
Baltimore, Feb. 28, 2019
Many Marylanders considering certification as medical cannabis patients balk once they learn they would sacrifice firearms rights as a result, according to Maryland Senate testimony on Tuesday by Robert Davis, an Eastern Shore pharmacist and dispensary clinical director.
“It is keeping away at least 20 to 30 percent of potential certified patients from joining the system,” Davis told the Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPC). “People are scared to lose their guns, to have someone knocking at their door,” Davis continued, so they “are still utilizing the black market” to obtain cannabis.
A bipartisan bill would cure this conundrum, assuring that, if passed into the law, cannabis certification could no longer be a disqualification for licensed gun ownership. Republican state Sen. Michael Hough (District 4, Carroll and Frederick counties), who is joined by JPC chair Bobby Zirkin (D-District 11, Baltimore County) in sponsoring Senate Bill 97, told the committee the measure would “change Maryland’s laws to reflect the simple truth that medicine that people are prescribed should not be used to discriminate them from practicing their Second Amendment rights.”
If opposition to the bill exists, no one at the hearing rose to testify against it.
Eric Stamper, who described himself as a Maryland medical-cannabis patient with 23 years in the U.S. Navy under his belt, told the committee that “the government has spent a lot of money to train me” in weaponry, and yet “I’ve lost my Second Amendment rights.”
Olivia Naugle, legislative coordinator for pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, told the committee that patients “should not have to choose between their civil right and their human right to treat their pain or illness.” She also seconded a point that Hough had made – that use of prescribed drugs more dangerous than cannabis, such as opioids, does not disqualify a patient’s firearm licensing, so neither should medical cannabis.
More enigmatic testimony came from Max Davidson, executive director of the Maryland Patient Rights Association, a medical-cannabis advocacy group. He seemed to be suggesting that, had he not been disqualified from gun ownership due to his cannabis card, he would’ve found a handgun useful for self defense in Baltimore City on two occasions.
“I’ve been a victim of violent crime in Baltimore City. Not a surprise, that happens a lot in Baltimore City,” Davidson explained to the committee. “But I can’t get a gun to defend myself.”
Here’s how Davidson described the first instance: “I was a victim of violent crime and the police tried to arrest me simply for the fact that I had a marijuana lapel pin. They were little kids that tried to rob me. Didn’t care that they assaulted me, let them go.” But, “due to the law, I can’t get a gun to defend myself.”
The second incident he described as follows: “I’ve also been almost a victim of violent crime at the dispensary I was working at. I had a person who had a hit list come in and start trouble and kept coming back and wanting to cause harm on me. Could not defend myself. If it wasn’t for the armed security at the dispensary, I might not be here to testify today.”
In either case, the scenarios raise the question of how brandishing or discharging a firearm in self defense would have brought them to safer conclusions. Perhaps Davidson is the exception that proves the rule on the guns-and-weed policy question.