Medical Marijuana’s Strange Political Bedfellows

Progressive libertarians rejoice: A new bill being introduced in the Senate would stop the federal government from meddling with patients’ gun rights.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (3rd R) talks to reporters after a vote December 17, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has passed a cloture vote to clear the way for a final vote of the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.   
National Journal
Lucia Graves
June 19, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

The Sen­ate is set to con­sider two key amend­ments on med­ic­al marijuana, one of which would help build an un­likely al­li­ance between gun-rights act­iv­ists and pot pa­tients.

One amend­ment, in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day by Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, mir­rors an amend­ment passed re­cently in the House that would stop the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion from us­ing fed­er­al funds to go after med­ic­al-marijuana op­er­a­tions that are leg­al un­der state law. The amend­ment comes after a bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion of House mem­bers voted 219-189 to pass a twin bill last month, un­der­scor­ing a grow­ing na­tion­al ac­cept­ance of can­nabis.

The back­drop is, DEA and nu­mer­ous U.S. at­tor­neys have been raid­ing med­ic­al-marijuana dis­pens­ar­ies in states where clin­ics are op­er­at­ing in full com­pli­ance with state law. Med­ic­al marijuana is leg­al in 22 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

The oth­er amend­ment, in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day by Sen. John Walsh of Montana, would keep the fed­er­al Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms, and Ex­plos­ives from spend­ing ap­pro­pri­ated money to deny med­ic­al-marijuana pa­tients the right to own fire­arms.

The is­sue has irked med­ic­al-marijuana pa­tients for years, with ad­voc­ates cit­ing ATF’s ac­tions as fur­ther evid­ence of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s at­tack on state marijuana laws. “From a pa­tients’ rights per­spect­ive, I think this is a trav­esty,” Bri­an Vin­cente, the head of Sens­ible Col­or­ado, told The Den­ver Post in 2011 after the ATF an­nounced pot pa­tients were pro­hib­ited from own­ing guns. “People shouldn’t be denied their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights based on their choice of medi­cine.”

Walsh’s new amend­ment could help bol­ster an al­li­ance between gun-rights act­iv­ists on the right and med­ic­al-marijuana ad­voc­ates on the left.

Marijuana Ma­jor­ity spokes­man Tom An­gell, for his part, says the part­ner­ship isn’t par­tic­u­larly un­likely. “Marijuana policy alone already brings to­geth­er an in­ter­est­ing pro­gress­ive-liber­tari­an mix of strange polit­ic­al bed­fel­lows,” he told Na­tion­al Journ­al in an email. “When you add in gun rights, we should see a very, very in­ter­est­ing bi­par­tis­an res­ult.”

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