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 in the first installment of this series. 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. Here are their stories.

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 firearm 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 |

Pearson Crosby didn’t know what to expect when the Alaska State Trooper pulled him to the side of the road in Denali National Park. But when you drive 130,000 miles a year delivering cannabis across the largest state in the Union, the occasional traffic stop is bound to happen. This one, however, was the first since he started Crosby Transportation with nothing more than a Chevy pickup, $600 and a resolve hardened in the deserts of Iraq.

But those salad days were behind him. At the moment, he and his employee were in possession of nearly 200 pounds of product, tucked away neatly in 27-gallon tote bags. Even 20 feet away from the vehicle, the smell of trimmed flower was unmistakable. What else could he do but play it straight?

“You know, trooper, we have pistols right here in our center console,” Crosby said when the officer approached the vehicle. This was not unusual for Interior Alaska. “All right,” the officer replied, noticing the special plates. “You still in the Marine Corps?”

“No sir. Just working.”

“Well, you’re going 4 miles over the speed limit. And there’s black ice all the way ’til Nenana. So you take care of yourself.”

And, with that, the officer let them go on their way.

Time in Iraq

The Last Frontier was the farthest thing from Crosby’s mind when he joined the Marines straight out of high school. He knew from his martial arts training that he liked to fight. And he knew that he didn’t want to go to college. So Parris Island seemed like the logical choice. “At that time, I didn’t know there were any other jobs in the Marine Corps besides infantry,” said the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, native. “So that’s what I did.”

Cannabis is a big part of my life because of how much it helped me…

After completing boot camp and school of infantry, Crosby was assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Bravo Company. His first deployment was to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, where he and his men operated out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) 5. Halfway across the ocean, he’d been promoted to team leader. “I was very good at what I did,” he said. “I got meritoriously promoted several times. And I enjoyed being able to have guys rely on me for stuff that could save their lives potentially. They were training to make sure they didn’t die, and to locate, close with and destroy the enemy.”

Crosby’s large frame and lifelong pursuit of physical fitness proved useful when he found himself walking into combat with 135 pounds of gear. At 6 feet, 4 inches, and 230 pounds, he was famous for hauling not one but two Marines at a time during fireman’s carry drills back on base. “I was big into really hardcore exercises for my guys,” he declared. “Especially before deployments.”

After experiencing the medicinal benefits of marijuana firsthand, Pearson Crosby pursued opportunities on the business side of the cannabis industry.

While stationed at FOB 5, Crosby’s platoon was pulled from the company and sent 15 kilometers north along the Euphrates River. There they essentially took over the small village of Baghdadi and kept watch over a busy civilian bridge. Their mission was to confiscate any black-market oil.

“We would have the Iraqi police who lived on the compound with us escort these ‘Bongo’ trucks full of illegal oil back to our base,” Crosby recalled. “And I guess the insurgency watched our habits.”

One day an Iraqi police patrol came through, and the Marine on watch failed to notice the vehicle that slipped in behind. It was carrying at least 2,000 pounds of explosives and accelerant. And it exploded fewer than 75 meters away from the structure occupied by Crosby and his men.

“The explosion cracked the entire building,” he declared. “It was pretty devastating. Like I said, I’m pretty big, and it threw me across the room. We all woke up covered in dust and dirt. I think I was the only one that didn’t get a purple heart in that situation.” Though he wasn’t bleeding, Crosby suffered a traumatic brain injury and damage to his back and hip. The reason he wasn’t decorated was that he failed to have his injuries documented in time. (He was too busy assisting his men in the aftermath.) He downplayed his condition to avoid showing weakness.

Returning Home

Crosby completed two combat deployments and went on to pass selection for the newly formed Marine Forces Special Operations Command but decided to leave active duty in 2008 at the end of his contract. He returned home to Philadelphia. “Once I got out,” he remembered, “just everything locked up. I guess from not being active on a daily basis. I mean, it was to the point where I was crawling up the stairs to go to bed at night.”

The VA rated his disability at 70 percent, then 90. His doctors placed him on as many as 10 different prescription medications, including morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone. Before long, Crosby found himself hopelessly addicted. But because he wasn’t suicidal, he wasn’t allowed into inpatient rehab. The VA instead steered him to a methadone clinic in South Philadelphia. It was an hour and a half drive each way with traffic, and some days the line at the single window would be 80 people long, each person waiting for his or her Dixie Cup of relief.

“You’re pissed off because you have to do this every single day,” Crosby said. “You can’t miss three days in a row or they start you over. So I bought a bag of heroin, and that was the beginning of that.”

He quickly realized he was in a life-or-death situation and that he was unlikely to get help from the VA. Not knowing what else to do, he essentially locked himself into his apartment for a month with nothing but marijuana and Imodium A-D to get him through the worst of the withdrawal. And it worked.

“Cannabis is a big part of my life because of how much it helped me get off those dangerous, addictive, deadly medications,” Crosby stated. “I just couldn’t believe how much relief it gave me. And it truly was the defining factor.”

Higher Risk

Crosby appeared on the cover of “High Times” magazine.

He became an outspoken cannabis advocate, helping launch the Veterans Action Council and even appearing on the cover of High Times Magazine (in his Marine Corps uniform with a joint in his mouth). Feeling well enough to work, he launched several entrepreneurial ventures after moving to Alaska.

He no longer does transportation, and he doesn’t miss being in possession of $100,000 or more in cash while making deliveries on a routine, predictable schedule. Of course, he’s a highly trained Marine who doesn’t leave the house without his Glock. But there’s no need to tempt fate.

“It was a wild experience,” he said. “You can get killed over $10 in some parts of Anchorage. I just made sure that I made myself a hard target.”

When reminded that, as a consumer of cannabis, he is considered a prohibited person by federal law, Crosby remained unfazed. In the state’s eyes, everything he did was completely legal.

“I wasn’t intoxicated while armed with the product,” he said. “It was all regulated. And cannabis has been decriminalized in Alaska since 1975. So it was something that I was more than willing to risk because of the higher risk of not carrying a firearm.”

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 |