Proposed Medical Marijuana Rules Bring Debate Over Guns

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Andy Shofstall

ILLINOIS --  Medical Marijuana was signed into state law in August. The first applications for the pilot program won't be accepted until September, but a draft of the pilot program rules is now available for public comment. One section in the plan is sparking debate over gun rights.  

Patrick Keating, of Herrin, has been hopeful that medical marijuana will give him relief from pain.
 
"There are days I'm puking in the toilet," said Keating. "There are days where I just want to lay in bed all day."
 
The Army veteran says he took a blow from a piece of asphalt thrown at his convoy in Iraq.
     
"It hit me right underneath the Kevlar," said Keating. "Right at the cheek bone, passed out, had a seizure."
 
That moment left Keating with a traumatic brain injury. It's one of the conditions approved to use marijuana under the proposed rules.
     
"I believe it would help," said Keating. "It would help me get back on my feet."
 
However, another section in the plan has Keating worried. He would be required to give up his Firearm Owners Identification Card  and his guns.
 
"I feel safer at night knowing that if someone does break into my house, or if something does happen, I can protect myself," said Keating.
 
The proposal does have its supporters, like Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones. 
 
"It would stand to reason that intoxicated people, no matter what they're intoxicated on, would lack the judgment to legally possess and carry a firearm," said Jones. 
 
The plan includes a line that active duty police would not be allowed to use medical marijuana. Jones believes that's important because his deputies have to make tough decisions.
 
"Is it proper to use a weapon?" said Jones. "When am I being threatened to the extent that I need to use a weapon or deadly force?"
 
When a person owns a gun, Jones say they may one day face that same situation.
     
"If you're high on marijuana or drunk on alcohol, it doesn't make any difference." said Jones. "It alters your judgment."
 
A state police spokesperson said they are bound by federal law to not allow medical marijuana patients or caregivers to possess guns.
 
Another issue would be that the federal government also doesn't allow for marijuana use, even for medical purposes.
 
The Illinois Department of Public Health has the full proposal available here:
 
Comments on the plan can be sent in through Feb. 14. 
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