December 1, 2016

Getting Medical Treatment Shouldn’t Limit Second Amendment Rights

Getting Medical Treatment Shouldn’t Limit Second Amendment Rights

The 2016 election was one of the biggest political upsets in recent memory. While people across the country cried tears of joy or disappointment over the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump, many overlooked another major turn of events: the advance of marijuana legalization efforts. What was once a fringe issue became a nation-wide movement as eight more states legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

Many addiction treatment advocates cheered these legislative changes. Research into the effects of medical marijuana as a possible alternative to opioid-based prescriptions has been promising; recently a team from the University of Georgia found that in states where medical marijuana was legalized, there was a significant drop in the number of opioid-based prescriptions written. Making medical marijuana more widely available as a treatment option could prevent untold thousands of people from developing an addiction or overdosing and potentially dying.

Increasing the availability of medical marijuana to qualifying patients is definitely a step in the right direction. But the federal government has been slow to catch up to this dynamic new legislative and medical approach to marijuana use that states are embracing.

In fact, as more and more states moved towards legalizing marijuana in some capacity, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) doubled down on their classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance, leaving it in the same category as heroin and ecstasy. Notably, cocaine and methamphetamine are scheduled as less dangerous substances than marijuana.

There is another complication to marijuana legalization. Handgun ownership privileges are denied those who use marijuana.

It makes sense to prevent someone actively using cocaine or heroin from buying a handgun. However, for people who live in states that voted to legalize medical marijuana and are using the drug according to their doctor’s instructions, the ban on purchasing firearms seems like a clear infringement on their second amendment rights.

One group especially likely to feel the strain between getting the best medical treatment available and gun ownership is veterans. Trained to use our most advanced military weaponry, veterans as a group are likely to own weapons during and after their separation from service. At the same time, many veterans suffer from chronic pain, which is very well treated by marijuana use. Asking our service members to fight for our country then taking away their right to own firearms for pursuing the best medical treatment they can get is not only illogical, it’s unconstitutional.

Denying any citizen the right to bear arms based solely on their choice of medical treatment is not in line with American values of independence, freedom, and autonomy. The federal government needs to get out of the way of veterans and many others who would benefit from medical marijuana treatment while still owning firearms. Increasing access to medical marijuana could also slow down the rates of opioid abuse, addiction, and related overdoses, saving thousands of lives. Hopefully a reasonable President Trump will honor our veterans, their personal health, and their second amendment rights.

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About Constance Scharff PhD