In just about two weeks, the legislation that legalizes marijuana in the State of Minnesota will take effect.
Despite the legalization at the state level, marijuana usage is still federally illegal, which will cause problems for gun owners and law enforcement agencies who issue permits.
"We have to look at both state law and federal law," Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith said in an interview. "Up until this point, they were pretty much in alignment."
With the change in the law surrounding marijuana, those laws no longer align. State Laws now say that sheriffs cannot deny permits, both concealed carry and acquire permits, based on marijuana usage alone. This goes against the current Federal law.
After the legalization bill was passed in May, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) issued a statement saying marijuana users will still be considered an "unlawful user" of a controlled substance.
This means they would be prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition.
“Until marijuana is legalized federally, firearms owners and possessors should be mindful that it remains federally illegal to mix marijuana with firearms and ammunition,” said ATF’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Reed, of the St. Paul Field Division. “As regulators of the firearms industry and enforcers of firearms laws, we felt it was important to remind Minnesotans of this distinction as the marijuana laws adjust here in the State of Minnesota.”
This discrepancy has put law enforcement in a bind.
"There is no good answer. You either violate Minnesota Law, or you violate Federal law," Smith said.
Smith said they do not have any sort of workaround while the situation is figured out because Minnesota is a "must issue" state.
"It doesn't matter if it's this county. It doesn't matter if it's Hennepin County. It could be the biggest county in the state. It's all the same for everyone one of us. We, as the sheriffs, through our Sheriff's Association, tried to bring this to the attention of the legislature, and it fell on deaf ears."
In a recent interview, State Senator Jason Rarick said that the state law would have to change to match federal regulations. "That's ultimately what we would have to do at the State level, and then that could be put in [the law] to say once it's [marijuana] removed from the federal list then our law could go back into effect."
At the time of writing this story, Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson said in an email that they are waiting on legal guidance on how to proceed.
Ultimately, local sheriffs are expecting this issue to be decided in a court case.