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Warren County DA seeks preliminary injunction in lawsuit over guns and medical marijuana

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The Warren County district attorney wants a judge in federal court in Erie to rule sooner rather than later in his potentially precedent-setting case that seeks to upend federal law over gun possession and the use of medical marijuana.

Rob Greene is seeking a preliminary injunction that would halt a federal policy that prohibits him from having a firearm as long as he has a Pennsylvania medical marijuana card.

Greene wants a preliminary injunction in place while Pittsburgh-based U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon considers the lawsuit that Greene and the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation filed in January in U.S. District Court in Erie. They are suing the United States government, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the directors of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The suit is over the federal law that prohibits the users of marijuana, including medical marijuana, from having firearms, even if a user's state has legalized medical marijuana — as have Pennsylvania and 37 other states as well as three territories and the District of Columbia.

Greene, a Republican first elected in 2013, said in December that he would not run for reelection when his term expires in 2025. He said he would advocate for legalization and regulation of cannabis. The advocacy expanded into court with the filing of his lawsuit on Jan. 23, and with his request for a preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit asks Bissoon to permanently enjoin the enforcement of the marijuana-related prohibition. The suit claims the ban violates Greene's Second Amendment rights to bear arms. In his motion for a preliminary injunction, filed Tuesday, Greene requests that Bissoon block the ban temporarily as she considers his underlying lawsuit.

The request for a preliminary injunction is all but certain to result in more court attention to Greene's case.

A lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department filed a notice on March 7 that he is representing the government in the lawsuit. The notice said he was waiting to be served with the suit before he answers it in court. The government now will also have to respond to the more pressing request for a preliminary injunction.

Greene's lawyers are arguing that a preliminary injunction would halt the "irreparable injury" to Greene's constitutional rights due to his inability to possess weapons at the same time he uses medical marijuana, according to a brief filed with the motion for the preliminary injunction.

Greene got a medical marijuana card in May 2023, according to his suit. The suit provides no information on his health.

Greene and others who use medical marijuana "are currently being deprived and would continue to be deprived of their fundamental right to keep and bear arms," according to the brief for the preliminary injunction.

Greene, the chief law enforcement officer in the largely rural, 38,000-resident Warren County, is abstaining from buying or possessing firearms to avoid prosecution, according to the brief. It states that 500,000 Pennsylvanians who use medical marijuana are prohibited from having guns under federal law.

The conflict between state and federal law exists because marijuana is not legal nationwide and it remains a Schedule I drug, along with substances like heroin, under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regulations. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits "unlawful" users of Schedule I drugs from buying and possessing firearms.

Greene's brief states that he is not seeking to use firearms "while under the effects of medicinal marijuana."

He is solely seeking "an ability to purchase, possess and utilize firearms and ammunition when not utilizing doctor-recommended medicinal marijuana, no different than a patient that has been prescribed" such painkillers as "Dilaudid, diamorphine, hydrocodone, morphine or oxycodone," according to the brief. It states that Greene has never used medical marijuana "while in his official capacity" as district attorney.

The Second Amendment Foundation's executive director, Adam Kraut, a lawyer who is representing Greene, said in an interview that the case is the first of its kind that he knows of that challenges the federal firearms prohibition in the context of a medical marijuana card.

"Due to the law individuals are placed in the untenable situation of having to choose whether to use a medicine recommended to them by a doctor to treat their symptoms at the expense of their Second Amendment rights or exercise their rights at the detriment of their health," Kraut said in a statement. "Having to make such a choice is simply wrong and we look forward to vindicating the rights of those affected."

The Second Amendment Foundation is a plaintiff with Greene in the suit, along with a resident of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, James Irey. He was added as plaintiff in an amended lawsuit filed March 6.

The case is docketed in U.S. District Court in Erie because Warren County, the home of Greene as the lead plaintiff, is one of seven northwestern Pennsylvania counties within the Erie Division of the Pittsburgh-based U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.


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