Medical cannabis patients in Arkansas can now apply for concealed carry permits, as a bill is being reviewed by the Senate.
After clearing the House Judiciary Committee, the House approved Rep. Aaron Pilkington’s (R) legislation with an 82-5 vote on Tuesday.
Pilkington argued during floor discussions that, although Arkansas’s medical marijuana law states that “no patient’s right or privilege can be infringed upon due to medical marijuana,” concealed carry permits remain excluded. He emphasized that federal law does not limit gun rights based on medical conditions, and prescription drugs do not preclude individuals from obtaining a concealed carry license. He believes medical cannabis patients should receive equal treatment.
The proposed legislation in Arkansas would ensure that a person’s medical marijuana status does not impact their eligibility for a concealed carry license. Additionally, the state law would be amended to specify that participation in the medical marijuana program does not classify an individual as a chronic or habitual user of controlled substances, which could otherwise disqualify them from obtaining a concealed carry permit.
The bill also prohibits the state Department of Health (DOH) from revealing a patient’s status to state police during investigations related to concealed carry eligibility.
While some states have moved to protect the firearms rights of cannabis patients and users more broadly, this particular bill focuses on the issue of concealed carry.
Although Arkansas does not mandate a concealed carry permit, many firearms owners opt to obtain one for added protection when traveling and for clarity during encounters with law enforcement.
In November, Arkansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana for adult use.
Currently, the issue of gun rights for cannabis consumers is being debated in at least two federal courts. The U.S. Department of Justice recently submitted a brief in a federal appeals court as part of a lawsuit challenging the government’s ban on firearms possession for medical marijuana patients.
In February, another federal court ruled that the ban on marijuana users owning firearms was unconstitutional. Advocates argue that the push to end the federal ban is about constitutionality and public safety rather than expanding gun rights.
The Florida lawsuit asserts that the requirement by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (ATF) effectively encourages cannabis users to either falsify the form, purchase a firearm illegally, or relinquish their right to bear arms.
In 2020, the ATF issued a directive specifically targeting Michigan, requiring firearms dealers to perform federal background checks on all unlicensed firearm buyers, as the state’s cannabis laws have enabled “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals to acquire firearms unlawfully.
Following the federal court’s February ruling, a GOP Pennsylvania senator urged law enforcement to remove state barriers to gun ownership for cannabis consumers, with a focus on medical marijuana patients.
In Maryland, a key House committee held a hearing in February on a bill aimed at protecting the gun rights of medical cannabis patients in the state.
Meanwhile, in January, a GOP congressman introduced legislation that seeks to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms. The bill was previously introduced in the 116th Congress but did not pass.