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Carney vetoes bill to clarify gun ownership rules for medical marijuana patients

Gov John Carney vetoes a bill that would have clarified that medical marijuana patients are allowed to possess firearms.

The bill was an attempt to untangle a complicated knot of state and federal law: Delaware’s medical marijuana program is over a decade old, but federal firearms rules prohibit people who use marijuana from possessing a firearm.

The legislation sought to clarify that qualified medical marijuana patients can possess firearms in Delaware, but Carney argued the bill could not address a problem arising from federal rules and could instead lead to confusion.

But State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, a bill co-sponsors, points out Delaware’s medical marijuana program is itself illegal under federal law – a conflict the state accepts.

“The Governor has chosen to continue a medical program – which I support – that’s illegal at the federal level but not chosen to allow people to keep their rights while practicing that program," he said.

He adds current rules could pressure some with chronic illnesses to seek more powerful and riskier prescription medication to retain their rights to own firearms.

“You could go to the doctor for a variety of conditions and the doctor can give you hardcore pain medications, which have proven to be disastrous for the person and the community, and keep your second amendment rights," he said. "But you can’t go and get medical marijuana and keep those same rights.”

Spiegelman says he doesn’t know what the next steps may be for Delawareans frustrated by Carney’s veto.

The bill passed unanimously in the House and with bipartisan support in the state Senate.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.