The Honolulu Police Department has sent letters to local medical marijuana patients ordering them to “voluntarily surrender” their firearms because of their MMJ status.

This may be the first time a law enforcement agency has sought out state-registered medical marijuana patients and ordered them to surrender their guns.

The letters, signed by Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, inform patients that they have 30 days upon receipt of the letter to transfer ownership or turn in their firearms and ammunition to the Honolulu Police.

The existence of the notices, first reported early today by Russ Belville at The Marijuana Agenda podcast, was confirmed to Leafly News this afternoon by the Honolulu Police Department.

The startling order comes just three months after the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Hawaii’s capital city.

Here is the full text of one of the letters:

Medical marijuana patients who are also registered firearm owners are receiving these letters from the Honolulu police. (Courtesy of Russ Belville, The Marijuana Agenda)

The clash between state marijuana laws and federal firearms law—which prohibits all cannabis patients and consumers from purchasing firearms—is a growing point of legal contention in the 29 states with medical marijuana laws.

The Honolulu letters, however, may represent the first time a law enforcement agency has proactively sought out state-registered medical marijuana patients and ordered them to surrender their guns.


Federal law clearly prohibits anyone who consumes cannabis—for any reason, and regardless of state legality—from purchasing a firearm. On the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Form 1140-0020, which must be completed by firearm purchasers, applicants are asked if they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

In case it’s unclear to the applicant, the ATF includes this warning in bold type:

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.


Federal Court Upheld the Ban

Many state laws allow patients to medicate with cannabis, but the federal prohibition on cannabis consumption crosses that legality when it comes to firearms. The supremacy of federal law on this point was upheld last year by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It may be argued that medical marijuana users are less likely to commit violent crimes, as they often suffer from debilitating illnesses, for which marijuana may be an effective palliative,” the federal ruling stated. “But those hypotheses are not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”


State Law Applies

The Honolulu Police Department cites state law, not federal law, as the basis for the order. “Under the provisions of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7(a), you are disqualified from firearms ownership,” says the letter.

Curiously, HRS 134-7(a) makes no specific mention of a person’s medical marijuana status. It’s a blanket statement about federal law:

134-7(a) No person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition therefor.

Until now, the clash between firearm ownership and patient status has been largely avoided through a de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Firearms purchasers are forced to either lie on the ATF form (a federal offense), or tell themselves they’re technically honest—the ATF form asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana,” and those who quit cannabis yesterday technically were but no longer are unlawful users of marijuana.


A number of states issue medical cannabis patient cards or authorizations but do not keep a searchable database of patient names. In some medical cannabis states, like Arizona, firearm purchasers are not required to register with the state.

Hawaii, though, maintains an electronic database of both firearm purchasers, who must complete both the federal ATF and a state permit application, and medical marijuana patients. That allowed the Honolulu police to cross-check and compile a list of MMJ patients in the state’s firearms registry.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Robert Dewitt

    Here we go again, another violation of Article 2
    Of the Constitution, I can’t believe that State
    Representatives keep stepping on the very thing
    They swore to uphold. I find them in contempt
    Of the law therefore their order is null and void.
    What is it that the “Right” of the people to keep
    And bear Arms , shall not be infringed.

  2. Paul Robinson

    Omg how lame are things getting always messing with a legally voted in right!! So what next are they gonna ban alcohol consumers from having guns next including officers,agents and military who drink how about prescription drugs which far more superpass medical marijuana license holders. How about this for a concept start testing everyone under all conditions to qualify on a range to carry a weapon. God forbid our military, or any form of law enforcement agency ever drink or take prescription drugs and get to carry a gun or own a gun!! But discriminate against medical marajuana card holders??? You tell me I think they need to stop trampeling on our constitutional rights!! Cut the state can federal confusion. Either way gun rights get violated or patience rights get violated or both!! Why did president Obama support the program then slam it!! Why did he give a direct order for Feds to stand down and back off medical marajuana patients yet they did not they raided people’s homes shops of those following every letter of the law even as far as local law was concerned but the Feds took it upon themselves to do what they want!!! We citizens and veterans of the Sad excuse for United States have no rights at all really!! What happened to hippa medical confidentiality? What about the law Obama put in place that said anyone getting annoyed or harassed for being a patient can sue the harassing party $1,000.00 per person per occurance? Where did our rights and laws we voted on go? How about the right to Persue medical attention weather you have a card or not since fees and prices of everything involved in being a patient exploits the patients. Disabled people get raped in these areas and Obama said people who get charged for use of medical marajuana with or without a card will get dismissed as long as their medical records can prove a person qualifies in at least one of the qualifying areas for a license? Huh what the hell is wrong with this country? What the hell is wrong with our twisted unfair people and system. Maybe peopl should start picketing and objecting to vote since it is proving that our votes don’t count or matter!! It’s all a complete joke!!! Becoming more of an ashamed to have served this country disabled American veteran and citizen who is a registered voter!! Giving up on it all!!!

  3. Kevin Farris

    Mr. Dewitt,

    Just curious, do you agree with the GOP voting down the bill that would have prohibited ownership and possession for those that have committed domestic violence, those with mental health issues, and suspected terrorists on the no-fly list? Republicans killed that bill before it got to the floor. Also, Trump reversed an executive order by signing another executive order President Obama signed to make it more difficult for those with mental health problems to obtain weapons. I have studied history extensively, am a lawyer so I am trained in statutory interpretation and if you review the legal history of the second amendment you quickly learn the intent of the amendment was to make sure the federal government was unable to invade a state, so guaranteeing they have an armed militia that can defend the state from the Federal government. Recall we just left a monarchy so distrust of a strong central government had to be offset by state’s having the constitutional right to keep their muskets and tiny cannons to go up against any Federal force that may need to be confronted. To do that, militias must have muskets, so to ensure the state’s rights were protected from a government a state militia could reasonably be expected to fight well. Those days are long gone. Do you think that people that wear gear that looks military makes them trained, military-caliber soldier on an individual level? Not a chance. Even if the military could use no aircraft, it would be a slaughter. Trained killers versus weekend warriors that maybe practice their shooting weekly at best. The military would welcome a resistance at the onset of martial law to wipe it out. It would be easy to annihilate any citizen militia as thE first clause in 2A: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” If you think about it, the founders could have just said “an individual’s right to OWN, keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” But they prefaced it on a strong state militia being necessary to keep the country free in the in the event the State faces enemies, both foreign and domestic.” Then there is no ambiguity. Until 2008 case of D.C v. Heller. Before that, the supreme court never treated the right to bear arms as an individual right, thought the less informed of our citizens just assumed it meant you could personally possess your guns. Not true. It has been quite the activist Supreme Court, but conservatives don’t mind at all as long as the activism benefits them.

    1. Robert Roundtree Listing Owner

      absolute agree that the no fly list is inappropriate grounds to prevent gun purchasing. There were tons of names on that list that were not supposed to be there.