In Part 1…

We were introduced to Kim Petters, a U.S. Air Force veteran who developed PTSD but found relief with Delaware’s medical marijuana program. Due to federal law 18 U.S.C. 922 (g), however, legal users of cannabis can not be legal owners of firearms. Petters, and others in similar situations, are faced with the difficult decision of choosing protection or pain relief. Dr. Corey Burchman, a Navy veteran in New York City, believes CBD can be used as an alternative to opioids, noting that owning a gun is allowed for users of other prescribed forms of pain relief.

In Part 2, we dived into the complications of navigating state and federal laws. Cannabis use leading to the loss of an individual’s Second Amendment rights has been a topic of conversation since the Nixon Administration. The issue has become increasingly relevant in recent years in the wake of a wave of state-level marijuana legalization. While proposed changes to federal law and/or Drug Enforcement Administration scheduling would resolve the current imbroglio, it’s important to remember that, in the meantime, individuals across the country are caught in a gray area between state law, federal law and the enforcement of those laws. Part 2 discussed where lawmakers stand on the issue, the headway being made on marijuana sobriety tests and what to know when making the very personal decision to carry or medicate.

Millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens have been turned into felons, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, observed. And those who do what’s necessary to stay in compliance? Often they’re forced to choose between potentially life-changing medication and the means to defend themselves. Parts 3, 4 and 5 are profiles depicting the lives of three Americans so affected by the current mismatch in state and federal law.

Cannabis and Firearms Series

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on cannabis and firearms that was originally featured in Concealed Carry Magazine. The U.S. Concealed Carry Association and Concealed Carry Magazine have no editorial stance on marijuana legalization or the medicinal benefits of cannabis. We do, however, advise that all gun owners should do everything within their power to follow all state and federal laws. The aim of this series is to examine the legal concerns and ramifications that firearms owners who are also medical cannabis users face as states across the country continue to legalize marijuana while the drug remains a controlled substance under federal law.

Cannabis and Firearms: Medical Marijuana | Cannabis and Firearms: Federal vs. State Laws | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Kim Petters | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Brian | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Pearson Crosby |

“RANGE HOT!” cried the woman in the gray U.S. Concealed Carry Association polo shirt. The sharp crack of pistol fire temporarily drowned out the calling cicadas.

It was a muggy September morning at an outdoor range in the lush country outside of Dover, Delaware. A group of women stood on freshly mowed grass and fired at targets set against a wooded rise. The firing line ran perpendicular to a two-lane rural highway, and a man in a pickup truck slowed down to see what was making all the noise. It was an impromptu gathering of The Well Armed Woman (TWAW), a nationwide nonprofit with chapters in the First State’s north and south. “Every Day Is Independence Day for a Well Armed Woman,” according to the organization’s Facebook page. At the near end, a local nurse in a black tank top leaned into the brace of her CZ Scorpion. She looked determinedly through the optic as she kept the pistol on target. Farther down the line, Kim Petters struggled to break in her new Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. It had never felt quite right, but then there wasn’t much inventory to choose from during the restless summer of 2020.

“Are any of you guys going to give up your magazines?” Petters said out loud, asking no one in particular. The recent Delaware Democratic primary was the day’s hot topic. Several candidates with anti-gun leanings had come out on top, and the women wondered what new restrictions might lie ahead. “They’re just making us criminals,” Petters said, while several of her friends voiced their agreement.

She says what’s on her mind, and that’s what I love about her.

When she first started shooting with TWAW, she wondered if she’d find acceptance given her very public stance on cannabis. But to Petters’ surprise, members quickly embraced her as one of their own. “They didn’t see me as a medical marijuana patient,” she said. “They saw me as a woman who needed to learn how to shoot a handgun.”

Early Life

Acceptance wasn’t always forthcoming during Petters’ childhood in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Family turbulence left her on her own at a young age, and she spent time in 11 different homes before a friend’s mother made her a deal when she was 16.

“She gave me a fair rent price,” Petters said. “And she said you have to go to work every day. And you have to go to school every day. If you do those two things, you can live here.”

And so she did. She worked at a day care center all four years of high school, and on Thursday and Friday nights, she waitressed at Foxy Pizza. And that was enough to pay the bills. It wasn’t enough to have a car, but, fortunately, she had friends who drove. Petters found a second home at school, where teachers, administrators and guidance counselors all looked out for her. She teared up remembering how they held a graduation party for her in the nurse’s office. But, at the time, she was embarrassed by the attention.

“I didn’t want the other kids to figure out that I didn’t really have a family that was going to do anything for me,” she declared. “Because Glastonbury is a very wealthy town. These kids had everything, and I had nothing. But, looking back, I think how amazing that was.”

After graduation, Petters moved out of her friend’s house and struggled to make ends meet. She barely had enough money to put gas in the car in order to get to work, let alone go away to college. All of that changed after 9/11, when she joined the United States Air Force. “I found that the military life was very much a team life,” Petters stated, “and I absolutely loved it. I no longer had to worry about if I was going to have a place to live or enough money for food that week. Finally, I was on a level playing field with everyone else.”

She met her husband at Langley Air Force Base two years after she enlisted, and she finished her associate degree while deployed overseas under the tutelage of University of Maryland professors. Petters gave the military everything she had, and, in turn, availed herself of all it had to offer.

“Kim has no filter,” said Yolanda Martin, Petters’ former supervisor. “She says what’s on her mind, and that’s what I love about her.” When Martin first arrived at Langley Air Force Base, she was introduced to Petters, who had come back from a class. Petters told Martin, who is mixed race, that she just found out everybody is originally from Africa and that they were sisters. “Everybody died laughing,” Martin remembered. “That’s my first memory of her.”

Well-Armed Woman

Petters on deployment with the Air Force.

Petters on deployment with the Air Force.

Petters learned a valuable lesson while deployed to Al-Mubarak Air Base in Kuwait. She and her partner had been sent off base to an outdoor cement plant to oversee a group of third-country nationals to make sure that they were indeed loading their trucks with cement and not explosives or bad guys. At one point, her partner excused himself to go to the bathroom, and that’s when the men formed a big circle around her and started to close in. None of them spoke English, and they were all surrounded by nothing but miles of desert. Petters feared for the worst.

“And so all I did was pull my M16 around,” she recalled. “Because I just had it on my back. I pulled it around and had it in ready position. And all six men backed up and put their hands up. I never even had to point it at them. And that day showed me that a gun can save my life.”

Trained in medical admin, Petters found herself dealing with deceased U.S. servicemen and servicewomen in 2008. The remains of anyone who was killed in action, died in an accident or committed suicide in the entire area of responsibility passed through where she was stationed at Al-Mubarak. “And so it was, every single day,” Petters said. “Every single day, just smelling bodies and carrying bodies and loading them up. And I’m just the type of person that when I do anything, I do it fully and wholly and 100 percent of me is in it. And so I think that’s why I took it so hard.”

Normally the picture of health, Petters experienced high blood pressure and chest pains so severe she thought she was having a heart attack. She was annoyed when medics diagnosed her symptoms as anxiety and prescribed Zoloft. She took it, however, and the symptoms went away.

“And that’s when I was like, ‘Holy s**t,’” she said. “I do think they’re right. It’s mental.”

Finding Peace, Choosing Protection

Petters was medically retired in 2012 as a result of her PTSD. The transition back to civilian life was already rocky, and then her husband’s brother and sister-in-law died within three months of each other, leaving behind two young children and no life insurance. Petters and her husband took responsibility for the two children — in addition to their own — and moved to Delaware to be closer to family in New Jersey. She found herself with four children under 5 years old in a place where she knew nobody, taking a concoction of prescription medications to keep her PTSD symptoms in check. Petters was in a dark place and wanted nothing so much as to be rid of the antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills. That’s when she came across a video of veterans describing how marijuana had helped them.

Kim Petters and her family.

Kim Petters and her family.

“I was so desperate, what did I have to lose?” Petters recalled. “I called my brother-in-law and said, ‘Can you get me some weed?’ And he did. I remember I hid upstairs in the far corner bathroom. And I tried to blow it out the window because I didn’t want anybody to smell.”

But she immediately felt relief from all her worries. Everything that had been on her mind was gone. She was in the present moment. She just felt happy, even if she couldn’t explain why. Within months, she was completely off her medications. And, today, she revels in her newfound freedom.

“My first job is being a mom,” she said. “I like doing the cheesy stuff. I like getting pumpkins every fall, going on hayrides and picking apples. We never miss a year.”

Emboldened by her experience, Petters worked with Delaware lawmakers to pass S.B. 24, which improved veterans’ and other PTSD sufferers’ access to medical marijuana. She then championed S.B. 79, which, had it passed, would have clarified existing law so as to not disqualify patients under the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act from possessing or purchasing firearms. Even though it wouldn’t have changed federal law, Petters said it would have sent a message to the federal government. She looks forward to a tipping point when half the states in the country have passed similar legislation.

S.B. 79 died on the vine, however, when COVID-19 shut down the state legislature. And after two troubling incidents in Dover where Petters feared for her safety — being grabbed in a parking lot and being confronted with an AR-15 — she surrendered her medical marijuana card in order to purchase and train with a handgun.

“So what does that force the mother next door to do?” she asked. “Buy on the black market from a friend of a friend. I’ve said all this on the Senate floor. I mean, it’s the truth of the situation.”

Cannabis and Firearms Series

Cannabis and Firearms: Medical Marijuana | Cannabis and Firearms: Federal vs. State Laws | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Kim Petters | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Brian | Cannabis and Firearms: Profile — Pearson Crosby |