Sheriff Scott Walton said he took an oath to uphold the letter of the law. This week he said he's happy to hear that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is doing the same.
OSBI officials said Tuesday they plan to enforce any existing state and federal laws that prohibit marijuana users from possessing firearms or ammunition.
"I'm thankful they are because we're not re-writing the laws or picking and choosing," he said. "There's an oath that goes along with this profession and it's to uphold these things…We're going to hold steady, if it's a violation its a violation. We're going to enforce the law, not as retaliation or to make it hell on the weed smokers. But the things I think of are drug endangered children, child neglect cases where they get their hands on edibles, we're going to see these happenings."
Walton added, "I don't want to be the "I told you so" guy, but I'm going to be the"I told you so" guy on this one.
He said "this issue" will run it's course, though he doesn't know exactly how long it will take. So long as there are people who will monetarily benefit, he said, "they're going to take it and run."
He said everyone has different interpretations of every law, but that State Question 788 has been flawed from the start.
"It started inside out and backwards. I think any person with any knowledge of anything knew from the get-go that nobody has answers to these questions that everybody is asking," he said, adding that firearm ownership was one of the questions he saw coming.
He said the legalization of medical marijuana presented a "whole new plate of issues" to address with an ever-limited budget.
"There are people who love to smoke weed and stay buzzed and then there's a little handful of people that thinks it might save their life or cure them of cancer or get rid of their dementia," he said. "…And trust me, we're going to witness people die at an increased rate, like from traffic fatalities. And I think there will be a whole new crop of marijuana users."
Walton, a vocal opponent of the law from the beginning, added, "We've got recreational weed now legal, just disguised and called medical. It's a pot smokers dream come true to live in Oklahoma right now. We've got a battle ahead of us, a quality of life issue, an employment issue and some more issues that we probably haven't even identified yet."
"The people with opposing views on this think we're angry because we didn't get our way. But I look at all the things we battle—quality of life issues. We're going to spend our time messing around with marijuana allows. Like it or not, we're going to. But our deal is we're going to enforce the law. I hope the federal government holds to the task. I'm thankful OSBI has the same stance. If it's a violation of the law, there's nothing to talk about. We're going to enforce the law," he said. "But we, speaking for Rogers County Sheriff's Office, are going to enforce the law to the letter. And I'm thankful for my colleagues that will stand and say the same."
OSBI to enforce laws prohibiting weapons for marijuana users
OSBI’s enforcement decision, meanwhile, may create a thorny problem and a tough choice for gun owners who also want to possess a medical marijuana license.
Thirty-one states have legalized medical marijuana along with Oklahoma, but it remains a controlled substance federally. And under current federal law, any person who illegally uses or is addicted to a controlled substance — like marijuana — is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
OSBI Special Agent Steve Tanner said his agency doesn’t get to pick and choose what laws to enforce.
“We’re required to enforce the state law, and we’re required to enforce the federal law,” he said. “We don’t have any choice but to enforce the existing rules.”
Tanner said his agency recently updated its Self-Defense Act License application to note that individuals who have been issued a medical marijuana patient license should answer “yes” when asked if they unlawfully use or are addicted to a controlled substance.
“They may be precluded from being issued a firearms permit,” he said.
Applicants who face denials will still have the option to appeal the decision before a third-party arbitrator, he said.
Bud Scott, executive director of the medical marijuana trade group New Health Solutions Oklahoma, said the OSBI enforcement decision is “an example of an agency looking to subvert the will of the people.”
“We just legalized medical marijuana, which is still illegal at the federal level,” he said. “At this point, we’re just selectively choosing how to enforce the law.”
He said the gun-ownership application need to be clarified by the Oklahoma Legislature promptly in a special session.
Scott is among a group of medical marijuana proponents pressing for a state law that protects medical marijuana patients’ right to bear arms and receive gun licenses.
Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, said enforcing federal gun laws may make it more difficult for Oklahomans to receive gun licenses.
He said medical marijuana needs to be recognized as a prescription drug.
“No person in legal possession of a prescription drug should be denied their Second Amendment right to the peaceful possession or ownership of a firearm or be denied a license to carry a handgun under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act unless previously arrested for any violation of the (act),” he said in a statement.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.