Ore. court rules medical pot users can have gunsThe Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that retired bus driver Cynthia Willis can have her medical marijuana and a concealed handgun, too.
By: JEFF BARNARD , Associated Press Writer , The Jamestown Sun
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that retired bus driver Cynthia Willis can have her medical marijuana and a concealed handgun, too.
The ruling issued in Salem, Ore., upheld previous decisions by the Oregon Court of Appeals and circuit court in finding that a federal law barring criminals and drug addicts from buying firearms does not excuse sheriffs from issuing concealed weapons permits to people who hold medical marijuana cards and otherwise qualify.
“We hold that the Federal Gun Control Act does not pre-empt the state's concealed handgun licensing statute and, therefore, the sheriffs must issue (or renew) the requested licenses,” Chief Justice Paul De Muniz wrote.
Willis welcomed the ruling.
“I feel like a big girl now,” Willis said. “I feel like a real human being now, not just a source of revenue to the county.”
Leland Berger, the attorney representing Willis and other medical marijuana patients from Washington County, said the ruling was important in the continuing national debate over making marijuana legal to treat medical conditions.
“I am hopeful we will end cannabis prohibition the same way we ended alcohol prohibition, which was by refusing to enforce federal laws within the state,” Berger said.
Berger noted that acceptance of medical marijuana continues to grow, with Delaware last week becoming the 16th state to make it legal.
Elmer Dickens, a lawyer for Washington County representing the sheriffs, said they got the clarification they were looking for on whether to follow federal law or state law on what has been a cloudy issue. Dickens did not anticipate an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, because the ruling focused so tightly on state law.
“Every sheriff knows now what the rules are, and we got what we needed,” he said.
The Oregon attorney general had argued in favor of the medical marijuana patients and against the sheriffs of Jackson and Washington counties who withheld handgun permits.
Oregon became one of the first states in the nation to authorize people to use marijuana to treat medical conditions when voters approved an initiative in 1998.
Nearly 40,000 Oregonians hold medical marijuana patient cards, with more than 36,000 of them for severe pain, according to Oregon Medical Marijuana Program statistics. Another 22,000 are registered as growers, and 21,000 as caregivers.