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Colorado, Cannabis and Firearms

Colorado has very interesting legislature when it breaks down to owning a firearm and consuming marijuana. If you are a “Red Card” holder, meaning you purchase your marijuana medically, you’re not allowed to own a handgun in the state of Colorado. One thing worth noting between recreational “21+” marijuana and medical marijuana is the difference in price. Medical marijuana has a significantly lower tax than 21+ marijuana; 11% vs. 25%. A 21-year old living in Colorado who consumes marijuana recreationally without admitting to being addicted to it can purchase a handgun (I know this, because I did it last week).

There I stood in my local Cabela’s Outdoor Supercenter; African game animals marking the walls, and the scent of beef jerky permeating the aisles, and the right winged conservatives near the gun case giving me tips about my first handgun like “try those 225 grain hollow points, the only thing that’ll slow them suckers down is Obamacare”. It reminded me of home. My conservative West Michigan home. A place where the Bush/Cheney bumper stickers fade and peel on the backs of lifted trucks with pride and nothing is open on Sunday. Nostalgia leaves as quickly as it entered and I remember I’m in Colorado, I’m buying a gun. I fill out the background information, flirt with my salesperson, and wonder if the FBI really makes sure I’m not stockpiling fertilizer and cannon fuse under a false name in rural Wyoming for the Rapture. I pass this “background check”, and verbally assure the salesperson that I am in no way medically defective or intending to sell the weapon to a felon in the parking lot. I leave.

This terrifies me. That was it? I’m on my merry way? I was in and out of that store with a .45cal revolver and fifty rounds of ammunition that is prized for its ability to expand and bring more damage to its victim in under an hour. Wow.

So I get home, read the handgun pamphlet, learn that I can be a member of the NRA (I thought that silly group was only for rifles). Sign up for a firearm safety course online, and I practice loading the gun with “dummy rounds” (these ceramic bullets that have silicone where the primer would be – they allow the owner to become familiarized with cycling rounds through the gun without having to actually fire anything). I clean the gun, cut away foam in my new case so it fits nice and snug. I put everything away locked and secure in my safe, and start making dinner. Naturally I take a puff of some Colorado marijuana before I start dicing my poultry and it dawns on me – what if I was sick?

This brings me to what I have called the “Colorado Christie Conundrum”.

Christie is my fictitious 100lb female who has two things working against her. The first is her Crohn’s disease – she’s had it since she can remember and it frequently leaves her with no appetite and terrible stomach pain. The second is her ex-boyfriend Rick who she believes is stalking her. Christie, being the bright young woman she is has done two things to address these issues, she’s researched alternative medicine for her illness and she’s filed a PPO (personal protection order) against Rick.

Will the piece of paper stop Rick? How much more will I be paying annually if I decide to get my medicine from a 21+ store rather than a medical dispensary?

I stood at my kitchen counter telling myself “These are the types of questions that no fictitious Christie should ever have to ask herself.”

So what are Christie’s options?

She can avoid a medical card and pay more in taxes for the exact same potency of cannabis and be able to defend herself with a handgun.

She can break the law by getting a medical card, and purchase her handgun in cash from a private seller at a gun show (this could leave her with a handgun whose origins will forever remain unknown).

The scariest thing that I thought that I had about Christie was the following: What if she defended herself with a handgun against Rick, was taken into custody, and tested positive for THC? We’re not talking about alcohol, currently THC can only be detected in terms of presence, and this has no bearing on the level of intoxication experienced by its user. Marijuana’s psychoactive cannabinoids comprise a drug which currently cannot have its effects measured against a calibrated system based on the content of cannabinoids exhaled by a person of interest (like alcohol).

Try to imagine if you were being told that you were getting a DUI because you drank alcohol two weekends ago at a brunch with your family. This would not compute. You would be baffled at how the law had failed you. These are the types of very real threats that cannabis users experience. The potential to be deemed intoxicated when you were sober is absolutely terrifying. This becomes exponentially scarier when you’re defending yourself in a court of law for defending yourself with lethal force.

I bought my gun hoping I would never have to use it to defend myself, with the very real realization that someday I might. I bought it to go boar hunting and target shooting with family and friends, not to knock over 7/11’s and roll people at ATM’s. As a recreational cannabis user I hope I’ve been well hydrated the month before if I ever find myself in a court of law defending myself for defending myself.

by Maxwell Bradford

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