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In Utah, it's your marijuana prescription or your concealed gun

Published July 25, 2013 10:15 am

Federal, Utah gun laws trump medical-marijuana licenses from other states, but conflicts are a rarity.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Medical marijuana and concealed firearms are gaining in popularity, but in Utah, they're in conflict.

Utah, complying with the federal Gun Control Act, denies or revokes concealed-carry firearms permits for anyone with a prescription for marijuana. While Utah doesn't allow marijuana to treat ailments, eight of the 31 states that recognize Utah's concealed firearms permit do.

Jason Chapman, firearms supervisor for the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, said he can only recall seeing one or two such conflicts, though he added that not every case comes across his desk. In those cases, Chapman said, BCI denied permits to applicants who sent their marijuana prescription card along with their other identification.

BCI does not keep records of how many applicants or holders are denied for medical marijuana. BCI, in its regular report on concealed-carry permit violations, lumps those cases into a category labeled "controlled substance."

But with Utah's concealed firearms permit popular among non-Utahns because so many states honor it and medical marijuana gaining acceptance, the issue seems headed for more conflict.

There's no database of people who have a marijuana license to check against and the concealed carry-permit application. But when law enforcement does learn about a marijuana prescription, it's treated differently than prescription opiates.

Utahns with a prescription for other opiates, such as Oxycodone, are not barred from a concealed firearm permit unless they are suspected of abusing the drugs.

Salt Lake City defense attorney Chris Salcido, who represents defendants in drug cases, wrote in his firm's blog earlier this year that marijuana prescriptions should be treated the same as other prescriptions. Salcido did not write specifically about concealed guns.

"There are constitutional issues that arise in such cases, and hopefully a good judge will find that it is unconstitutional to not recognize a valid prescription from another state," he wrote.

And it's not just the right to carry a concealed weapon that can be in jeopardy if you have a prescription for marijuana. People can be denied their Second Amendment rights for up to a year after they've been caught with illicit drugs or abused legal ones, such as driving under the influence of a heavy dose of prescription pills.

Without a concealed carry permit, which in Utah exempts you from BCI background checks, someone buying a gun from a licensed dealer has to fill out a federal form that asks whether you are illegally using or addicted to a drug — a question that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives clarified in 2011 includes medical marijuana. It's a crime to lie on the form.

Brandon Kirk, a firearm instructor in Colorado, has not run into anyone with a Utah concealed carry permit and legal marijuana yet. He hopes he doesn't.

"You need to turn in one of the two," said Kirk, who is concerned about people who have both marijuana and a permit, citing the federal act that could open people to perjury if they claim to not have any illegal substances on a firearms form.

Anyone denied a concealed carry permit because of their marijuana prescription cannot reapply until the prescription has been expired for a year, Chapman said.

Oregon doesn't recognize Utah gun permits, but that state will allow its recognized concealed carry permits holders to also have marijuana prescriptions. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that marijuana cardholders can't be denied a concealed carry permit just because they smoke pot.

An Oregon sheriff challenged that decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court decided last year not to hear the case.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda Eight states in conflict

Eight of the 31 states that recognize Utah's concealed-carry permit also have legalized medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, Montana, Vermont and Washington. Statistics were not available on how many people in those states have Utah permits.