Marijuana: CBI says cross-checking MMJ registery against gun databases off the table

Last week, we told you about 2011 documents uncovered by activist Corey Donahue that outlined using the proposed medical marijuana patient registry database to cross-check federal firearm databases. The reason: MMJ patients are not legally allowed to own guns.

Now, however, a state official says such a search won't happen because it would violate the state constitution.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Medina tells us that checking the medical marijuana registry against federal or state gun/concealed firearm permits is no longer on the table, adding that such checks would not be legal unless the patient volunteered patient status to investigators.

"Although federal requirements say states with medical marijuana registries must utilize this information to verify legal firearm ownership/possession, Colorado's Constitution prohibits this action," CBI Spokeswoman Susan Medina wrote in an e-mail to Westword yesterday. "However, if someone who is part of the medical marijuana registry volunteers that information when purchasing a firearm (to verify identification, as an example), it can be used as part of the background process."

Medina did not offer up the specific language in the law that prohibits such actions. But she's likely referring to a portion of the constitution that seems to prohibit law enforcement from accessing the information unless officers are physically presented with a medical marijuana red card. From Amendment 20, with the key section in bold:

No person shall be permitted to gain access to any information about patients in the state health agency's confidential registry, or any information otherwise maintained by the state health agency about physicians and primary care-givers, except for authorized employees of the state health agency in the course of their official duties and authorized employees of state or local law enforcement agencies which have stopped or arrested a person who claims to be engaged in the medical use of marijuana and in possession of a registry identification card or its functional equivalent, pursuant to paragraph (e) of this subsection (3). Authorized employees of state or local law enforcement agencies shall be granted access to the information contained within the state health agency's confidential registry only for the purpose of verifying that an individual who has presented a registry identification card to a state or local law enforcement official is lawfully in possession of such card.

If that is the case, would the law prevent any database "fishing" expeditions from taking place? Officials last week confirmed that patients would not be auto-flagged in background searches -- but thus far, Medina hasn't responded to our requests for clarification on this additional point. We'll update when we find out more.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, Donahue filed a complaint in Denver District Court charging that the CBI, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, the Department of Revenue, the Office of Information Technology and the Governor's office are "threatening the integrity" of the patient registry by allowing the interface. The complaint also alleges that the meetings have not followed Colorado open meetings laws and asks that the courts put a hold on the program. No word if the courts will hear the complaint.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana outdoor-ad-ban decision in Denver delayed until August" and "Marijuana study author: U.S. Attorney wrong about rising teen pot use."

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes