Laughlin aims to thread needle for Pennsylvanias marijuana laws, gun owners


(The Center Square) – Legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania has held legislative attention in recent years, but some problems still pester users in the medical marijuana program.

Some clarity may soon come for the legal tensions between Second Amendment rights and state-approved marijuana use.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, is proposing Senate Bill 1146 to clarify that Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearm Act does not consider a medical marijuana cardholder as an unlawful user. Current law does not exempt medical users, which puts them in potential legal jeopardy.

Though police don’t vigorously enforce that law, it does pop up. When Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene announced he has a medical marijuana card, the county sheriff requested he forfeit his license to carry a firearm.

“I can’t change federal law, but this is an attempt partly to raise awareness of the issue,” Laughlin said. “A lot of medical marijuana card folks aren’t even aware of the infringement on their Second Amendment rights.”

Federal law still prohibits marijuana use, creating a legal ambiguity when states legalize it for medical or recreational use.

“We’re in this gray area right now,” Laughlin said. “It’s almost like we’re in this ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ period of time.”

Laughlin has previously discussed how concerns over that gray area have discouraged people from using medical marijuana and made other Republicans reluctant to embrace legalization.

“I know a fair amount of veterans looking for some type of relief from stress, anxiety, and PTSD to some extent,” he said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. “They’ve all universally told me that cannabis helps them a lot in that space. I know it needs to be studied; but if it works for them … then what’s the harm?”

House Republicans, in recent legislative hearings about recreational marijuana, have been worried about how to create a strong regulatory system and the risks of increasing use upon legalization.

“If you had to give up your Second Amendment rights to be on a run-of-the-mill antidepressant, what do you think would happen? I think what would happen is a lot of people that benefit from an antidepressant like that would stop taking them to protect their Second Amendment rights,” Laughlin said. “That seems counterproductive to me. We’re in kind of a bad situation right now and I’m just trying to make it better.”

Without more federal action, though, federal ambiguity hangs over all state marijuana policy changes.

“It’s frustrating for a lot of cannabis advocates and Second Amendment advocates that the federal government has done virtually nothing in this space,” Laughlin said. “Quit ignoring the problem.”