HI: Hawaii Police Department Confirms Error Over Controversial Cannabis Gun Policy

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Ron Strider

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Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard has acknowledged the department's error in requiring medical cannabis patients to turn in their guns.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Ballard told the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday that the department's policy of having patients relinquish their firearms "was incorrect."

She said HPD will return firearms to two people who turned them over voluntarily.

Despite the backflip on the policy, the department will continue to deny new gun permits for cannabis cardholders.

Last week, a letter surfaced from the police department that was sent to at least 30 medical cannabis cardholders who are registered gun owners, informing them that they had 30 days to turn in their firearms.

On Tuesday, HPD issued a statement saying it will not enforce the policy and is currently reviewing the issue with government agencies.

According to the newspaper report, Ballard said five HPD officers have been authorized to cross-check the Department of Health's marijuana registry with firearms permit applicants. Ballard added that confidential patient information is not released in that process.

State Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa, told Pacific Business News the controversial policy could keep some legitimate patients from using the drug, which has been legal for medicinal use in Hawaii since 2000.

"This should not be the situation. Medical cannabis patients are responsible gun owners now, and should not be intruded upon by Hawaii enforcement due to their medicinal use," he said.

Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, told Hawaii Public Radio on Tuesday that the state is sending a "mixed message" with the policy.

"We're hearing since 2000 that this is a medicine," he said. "It's really hard to understand why the state on the one hand is saying this is a medicine and on the other hand is saying, if you take this medicine, you are just de facto not allowed to have a weapon."

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