TAMPA, Fla. — In a law enforcement career spanning 34 years, Stanford "Neill" Franklin said it's the little moments that meant the most.
"It's not like on TV where every minute you turn around and you're going after some bad guy and putting handcuffs on them. That's far and few between. Mostly what you're doing is caring to the daily, hourly needs of people," Franklin said.
"You know, whether it's something simple as helping someone on the side of the road, you know, whose car is disabled to helping to find someone's lost child to dealing with a little neighborhood dispute among neighbors. It may seem minor to us as police officers, but the time that the person has the need, it's important to them. So, being able to provide that service on a daily, hourly, minute basis was, I guess, what was most rewarding to me, even though I spent a lot of time in criminal and narcotics investigation."
What You Need To Know
- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration
- The suit alleges discrimination against medical marijuana patients due to a federal rule that doesn't allow them to buy guns
- At issue is a form customers have to fill out when buying a gun that asks if they use or are addicted to drugs, including marijuana
- One plaintiff is a former law enforcement officer who says he returned his medical marijuana card before he even used it because he didn't want to jeopardize his Second Amendment rights
Franklin held a number of roles with the Maryland State Police, Baltimore Police, and the Maryland Transit Police Force before retiring. Now, he says he meets the criteria of a federal law that allows retired officers to carry a concealed firearm in any U.S. jurisdiction, with some exceptions. After decades of making arrests, Franklin said that's important to him.
"For more than half of my life, I've carried a firearm every day. Of course, in the performance of my duty, most of that was," Franklin said.
According to Franklin, that included undercover work and time in the division of corrections when he was with the state police.
"You're not making a lot of friends. Unfortunately, some people carry vendettas, and police officers who've done this work for years, first of all, they need to be able to protect themselves," he said.
When Franklin moved to the Fort Myers area, he began looking into medical marijuana. It's something he had learned about during his time as the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). It's a non-profit organization made up of criminal justice professionals who work on public policy issues.
"I arrested a lot of people for not just selling and trafficking marijuana, but for using it," Franklin said. "And then I started meeting these people in this new role in my life, and I'm beginning to question what I was doing, but you know, it's public policy. That's what we in policing do, we enforce public policy. But then, I'm meeting all these people, and I'm beginning to see that this was very helpful to many of them in managing pain, in dealing with seizures and multiple sclerosis - you name it."
Once his time with LEAP was done, Franklin explored using medical marijuana himself to treat chronic pain. He said after he was approved, he learned something that gave him pause.
"I'm like, 'This doesn't make any sense,'" Franklin said.
He's one of the plaintiffs in Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried's lawsuit against the Biden administration. It alleges discrimination against Florida medical marijuana patients because of a federal rule that prohibits them from buying firearms.
"It's about damn time," said Christopher Cano, executive director of the Suncoast Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) when asked about his reaction to the lawsuit.
At issue is a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Firearms Transactions Records Form, or ATF Form 4473. It asks people buying guns if they used controlled substances, including marijuana. It reminds customers that marijuana use is illegal under federal law, even if it's permitted under state law. People who respond "yes" on the form can't buy a gun.
"You can be legally in possession of your medicine and legally in possession of your firearm, but because you have both at the same time, you're committing a felony under federal law," said Cano.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. They're defined, in part, as "drugs with no currently accepted medical use."
"There certainly is an abundance of medical research that shows that that is not true when it comes to medical cannabis," said Dr. David Berger of Wholistic ReLeaf, which offers medical cannabis therapy. "For me, this is not a gun rights question. This is an equal protection, this is a disability question for me, and it's just not right for there to be a different class of citizen when it comes to something that's a constitutional right."
As for Franklin, he said he returned his medical marijuana card to the state because he didn't want to put his federal concealed carry or his ability to buy firearms in the future in jeopardy.
"Do I sacrifice my Second Amendment right? Do I sacrifice my choices in managing and mitigating pain?" Franklin said of the choice he faced. "No one should be put into that situation."
The lawsuit seeks to stop the enforcement of the laws in question against Floridians legally taking part in the state's medical marijuana program. It names U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, ATF Acting Director Marvin Richardson, and the United States of America as defendants. Spectrum News reached out to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which declined comment for this story.
The lawsuit also states that, “The plaintiffs do not challenge the United States’ right to enact reasonable gun regulations...that protect the public.” It goes on to say, “In fact, the plaintiffs are all strong advocates for reasonable gun regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of those who cannot safely possess them.”