South Dakota’s Assembly has passed two bills highlighting that those who use medical cannabis may be prevented from legally possessing firearms under federal law. The legislation includes adding policy notices in cannabis dispensaries and on patient applications. Failure to comply with these standards may result in daily fines for dispensaries.
The first measure, relating to marijuana patients’ applications, received resounding support with a 68 to 1 vote, while the second one, concerning dispensaries, faced a more divided vote, passing 42 to 27.
According to the legislation, medical marijuana dispensaries in South Dakota must display a warning sign stating that federal law forbids firearm possession for persons addicted to or using cannabis. The measure allows suspension if the attorney general certifies that federal law no longer prohibits firearm possession for such individuals.
Representative Kevin Jensen sponsored both bills, noting his vast background as a gun trainer and dealer. He stated that many people are unaware that this specific federal statute even exists.
Some industry players argue that the law requiring dispensaries to display notices of the statute at entrances and every point of sale brings an unwarranted burden on the operators. In response to these worries, Jensen stated that dispensaries wouldn’t have to pay more as a result of the regulation. He also noted that the $250 daily fine for noncompliance is only one-half of the cost that federal authorities impose on retailers that neglect to post notices on tobacco products.
Additionally, Jensen stated that the state’s health department would be in charge of implementing the rule and gathering fines as part of their regular inspections.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has continuously argued in federal courts that the ban on firearms for marijuana users is necessary because possession presents a special risk, similar to the situation where people with severe mental illnesses aren’t permitted to possess firearms. The DOJ justified the prohibition by citing historical precedence and claiming that cannabis users pose a threat to society since they would likely store their weapons improperly.
Despite the federal government’s view, certain federal courts have ruled that the marijuana-related firearm restriction is unlawful, prompting the DOJ to file an ongoing appeal.
A 2019 FBI memo came to light, suggesting that the federal authorities do not usually view the possession of firearms by medicinal cannabis producers and caregivers as a legal crime.
In the broader context of gun and marijuana policy, GOP congressional legislators have introduced two bills this session aiming to address the intersection of gun ownership and cannabis use.
The proposed reforms in South Dakota are still a developing story, and major cannabis companies such as Green Thumb Industries Inc. (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF) operating in more established markets are unlikely to give the legislation much thought until the final law takes shape and its ramifications on the broader industry are assessed.
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