Colorado Proposal Granting Gun Rights to Marijuana Users Returns | Westword

Ballot Initiative Granting Gun Rights to Marijuana Users Resubmitted

The ballot question was denied in January, but proponents have updated the initiative and hope to gather signatures in the spring.
A gun in front of green marijuana leaves
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A ballot initiative aimed at granting concealed-carry rights to Colorado marijuana users is making a second run at the state Title Board...and the November election.

Guns for Everyone, an organization that advocates for gun ownership and offers firearm safety classes, has been pushing a proposal to remove marijuana from the "unlawful use" category in Colorado concealed handgun permit applications. But last month, as Guns for Everyone was preparing to collect the 124,238 signatures required to get an initiative on the November ballot, the measure was rejected by the Title Board for failing to adhere to a single subject.

According to the Legislative Council, which reviews proposed statewide ballot initiatives to make sure they comply with state regulations, the first draft of the ballot question removed other areas of unlawful use from the application as well, allowing people who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes, use other controlled substances, were dishonorably discharged from the military, are in in the country illegally or have been "adjudicated as a mental defective" to obtain concealed-carry permits.

"Obviously, we disagree, but they believe that it didn't meet the single-subject requirement, and that our initiative overflowed into other areas," Guns for Everyone co-founder Edgar Antillon says. "All that means is we just reword it a little bit to meet that single-subject requirement."

Although Colorado doesn't require firearm owners to register guns, it does require registration for concealed-carry permits — and on that application are questions about federally unlawful activities.

"Technically, at the federal level, even if you recreationally use marijuana, you are banned from gun ownership," Antillon explains, citing the ATF's firearm ownership registration form.

Conveniently forgetting about past marijuana use when signing that form could lead to legal trouble down the road, but it's a common tactic for gun owners who recreationally consume pot. Licensed medical marijuana patients, who are recorded in state databases, aren't able to exist in that gray area, however.

Antillon doesn't consume cannabis, but says that many of his members have had to "pick between two freedoms" in firearm ownership and medical marijuana. He and Guns for Everyone co-founder Isaac Chase have been working toward removing marijuana use from the state's list of unlawful activities for concealed carriers for over seven years, he says, and are currently preparing for another hearing with the Title Board scheduled for March 6.

The new draft "is basically just one or two extra sentences that is more specific to marijuana," Antillon notes.

Guns for Everyone attempted a similar ballot push in 2016; the organization got through the Title Board that time, but failed to gather enough signatures. In 2019, a bill was introduced at the Colorado Legislature that would have allowed medical marijuana patients and people convicted of pot crimes that are now legal to get concealed-carry permits, but the measure was quickly voted down. According to Antillon, Guns for Everyone was not part of that effort.

"We're not advocating for being high and carrying guns at the same time, just like we wouldn't advocate for people to be drunk and carry guns at the same time," Antillon says. "Historically speaking, alcohol users are much more dangerous than marijuana users, and I think we can prove that through data and science, but nobody is asking consumers of alcohol to be barred from owning guns."

If the Title Board approves this version of the proposal, Guns for Everyone will have until August 5 to gather enough signatures to make the 2024 ballot. Antillon would like to see federal marijuana reform occur, as well, he says, "but until then, we have to admit that there is a gray area with the federal government and the Tenth Amendment."

As with banking, taxes and employee drug testing, marijuana's impact on gun ownership has become a growing national issue as more states legalize the plant. It's been brought up in Hunter Biden's federal court case and in a number of other cases at the district and appellate levels.

Last year a judge with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal district in which Colorado is located, ruled that the federal gun ownership ban for cannabis users was unconstitutional and violates Second Amendment rights. The feds are expected to challenge the ruling, however; in the meantime, the Justice Department continues to uphold the ban, arguing that marijuana users with guns are a danger to society and "unlikely" to store their firearms safely.
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