How will Ohio know gun owners don’t use medical pot? The honor system

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How will Ohio know gun owners don’t use medical pot? The honor system

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John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County, is a federally licensed dealer. Here, he discusses gun background checks and internet sales of firearms. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Once Ohio’s medical marijuana program gets off the ground, the state will rely on the honor system to ensure those seeking concealed-carry permits aren’t also licensed to use pot for medical reasons.

Federal law prohibits cannabis users from possessing a gun or getting a CCW, but background checks conducted before Ohioans buy firearms or get a concealed-carry permit won’t indicate whether or not someone is registered as a medical marijuana user.

The medical marijuana patient registry will be accessible only to qualified doctors, Ohio Board of Pharmacy spokesman Cameron McNamee said.

“The patient registry itself is protected information and only those doctors who are certified will be able to access the patient registry,” he said.

If someone purchases medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary, that information will be entered into the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System to make sure someone doesn’t buy more than the legal limit of a 90-day supply. But access to OARRS is limited to doctors and pharmacists.

“It’s locked down pretty tight,” McNamee said.

Law enforcement and heathcare regulators – such as medical board or board of pharmacy investigators — only have access to these systems if they have an active drug investigation, McNamee said. They can’t take the data in bulk or go fishing for names.

This means the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) won’t have that information. NICS is the system used by licensed gun dealers and law enforcement agencies that issue concealed-carry permits to make sure someone is legally allowed to possess a gun.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office this week confirmed that Ohioans who use marijuana – even legally under state law – are prohibited from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

“Ohio CCW law requires persons to follow federal law,” spokesman Dan Tierney said. “Federal law prohibits you from having a firearm if you use marijuana because it’s a Schedule 1 drug.”

Gun buyers who purchase from a licensed dealer must sign a form attesting they don’t use marijuana, even medically. Lying on the form is a felony under federal law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But Ohio law doesn’t require a background check or federal form for same-state private firearm transactions, including many guns sold online or at gun shows, as long as the seller has no reason to believe the buyer is prohibited from possessing a gun.

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