In a letter to Division of Arkansas Crime Information Operations Director Rick Stallings, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) outlined safety concerns with the state agency’s decision to allow medical cannabis patients to receive concealed handgun carry licenses (CHCL).
In the letter, signed by Marianna Mitchem, chief of the Firearms and Explosives Industry Division Office of Enforcement Programs and Services, wrote that the “ATF is concerned that the issuance of CHCLs to individuals who are prohibited by Federal law from possession of firearms creates an unacceptable risk of placing firearms in the hands of prohibited persons.”
The letter adds that while a 2023 audit of Arkansas’ alternative permit process by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division resulted in no findings that required corrective action, the ATF had previously sent guidance to Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) advising them that regardless of state laws, cannabis is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and “therefore, a person who uses or is addicted to marijuana is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition.”
Arkansas lawmakers passed a bill in April that protects the rights of medical cannabis patients in the state to carry concealed handguns and prohibits Arkansas State Police from considering “a person’s status as a qualifying patient or designated caregiver under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016, Arkansas Constitution … in determining whether an applicant or licensee is eligible to be issued a license to carry a concealed handgun,” according to the bill text.
The letter asks Stallings for clarification on how the state ensures “all current CHCL holders and applicants are not ‘controlled substance users,’ including users of medicinal marijuana” and how the state reconciles its state law with federal law.
“If Arkansas law does not require authorized State officials to confirm that an individual is not a ‘controlled substance user,’ then federally prohibited marijuana users may obtain firearms using the CHCL,” the letter states. “If ATF does not receive a response to the above issues, ATF will reevaluate the Arkansas CHCL as an alternative permit. As a result of that process, ATF may determine an Arkansas CHCL no longer qualifies as an alternate to the NICS check requirement.”
Mitchem asked for a response from Stallings on the questions within 30 days.
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