Cannabis And Guns: This Vet Chose The Latter But He Shouldn't Have To, Now He's Going To Federal Court

Zinger Key Points
  • This vet had to surrender his personal firearms and ammunition or forego the relief provided by medical marijuana. He kept his guns.
  • At the heart of the matter lies the 1968 Gun Control Act banning the sale of weapons to “drug users" and people found mentally unfit.

James Irey, a 46-year-old veteran who lives in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania had to face a difficult decision: endure chronic pain or forfeit his constitutional rights.

His journey began while serving in the Army in Kosovo where he sustained serious injuries including broken bones, torn ligaments and neck damage. Despite his sacrifices, which earned him numerous honors and awards, Irey left the service with debilitating pain that led to a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Seeking relief, Irey turned to PA's medical marijuana program upon his doctor's recommendations, reports the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. However, the path to pain management took an unexpected turn. While he was able to access medical marijuana, he had to surrender his personal firearms and ammunition or forego the relief provided by cannabis. He chose to keep his guns.

Outdated Gun Control Act Vs. Medical Marijuana Patients

At the heart of the matter lies the 1968 federal Gun Control Act that prohibits the sale of weapons to "drug users and people found mentally incompetent." Pennsylvania's Uniform Firearms Act further complicates matters by prohibiting gun ownership for medical marijuana cardholders, despite legalizing medical in 2016. PA state Senator Dan Laughlin (R) recently introduced a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to own guns.

Despite recent DEA moves to reclassify cannabis and recognize its medical benefits, it remains illegal at the federal level.

Irey and other veterans in similar situations joined a lawsuit spearheaded by the Second Amendment Foundation and Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene. Second Amendment Foundation Executive Director Adam Kraut, representing Irey and Greene, said a hearing could be held this month. They're suing the U.S. government, Attorney General Merrick Garland and directors of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Veteran Suicides

The suicide rate among veterans is thought to be more than double what federal officials report annually because of undercounting related to drug overdose deaths and service record errors, according to an analysis published in Military Times in November 2022.

Veterans, disproportionately affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often find relief in cannabis, which studies suggest can effectively alleviate symptoms. However, the dilemma persists: seek treatment and forfeit your firearms or risk violating the law. The consequences can be dire.

While the VA offers PTSD treatment options, the prohibition on recommending or aiding veterans in obtaining cannabis will likely persist until cannabis is rescheduled.

Meanwhile, veterans like Irey continue to grapple with impossible and painful choices.

Issues such as PTSD, veterans and how cannabis can help will surely come up at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference this October in Chicago. Hear directly from key industry players, experts, advocates and policymakers. Get your tickets now by following this link

Now read: The Cannabis Caregiver Economy: Why These Workers Deserve Market Access And How States Can Help

Photo: Courtesy of Mwewering and PeterPike by Pixabay

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