While those states cannot control the federal background check requirement, state medical marijuana programs generally do not ask card applicants whether they own a gun. That creates an opportunity for people to buy a gun first and then obtain a marijuana card. Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, says he provides this advice: “You better acquire all the firearms you want before you apply for that marijuana card.”
In a largely cash industry that is vulnerable to robberies, the issue of carrying guns is seen as potentially critical. Designated medical marijuana caregivers, who help registered patients acquire and use marijuana, are not subject to the same firearm restriction as their patients, as long as the caregivers are not users themselves, according to a 2019 F.B.I. memo on enforcement of the law.
Catherine Lewis, who owns two dispensaries and a grow operation in central Maine, is a licensed caregiver. But she also uses medical marijuana, as she said many caregivers do. She said she would prefer to have the option to carry a firearm for protection, since she delivers to patients in remote, rural areas with little to no police presence. Instead, she carries a stun gun and wasp spray.
“I’ve had to get firm with my delivery policies because of safety concerns,” said Ms. Lewis, who is the board chair of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine Trade Association. “I need to meet the people first in my store or have their doctors vouch for them.”
Ms. Lewis noted that last month she received inquiries from some members who wanted guidance on whether they could protect themselves with firearms during the manhunt for Robert Card, who killed 18 people in a mass shooting in Lewiston on Oct. 25. “I told them to do whatever they needed to do for themselves and their families,” she recalled.