Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jun 2010
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2010 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Damian Mann


Sheriff tried to deny permit to local medical pot patient

The Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court  Wednesday that 
Sheriff Mike Winters' denial of a  concealed handgun license to a 
medical marijuana  cardholder wasn't supported by law.

Upholding an earlier decision by Jackson County Circuit  Court Judge 
Mark Schiveley, the ruling said Winters did  not have grounds to deny 
Cynthia Willis' permit in  2008. Winters had argued that the federal 
Gun Control  Act of 1968 was the legal basis of his decision.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals found that Willis  complied with 
state law in her application, and  disputed Winters' federal 
arguments. "In sum, we are  not persuaded that the Sheriff is being 
forced to  violate -- or even potentially violate -- any federal  law 
by issuing a concealed handgun license pursuant to  Oregon's 
concealed handgun licensing statutes," the  court ruled.

Portland attorney Leland Berger, who represents Willis  and three 
others in the state who also have been denied  concealed handgun 
permits, said the decision is a  victory for marijuana cardholders 
throughout the state.

"It means the sheriffs in Oregon will no longer be able  to 
discriminate against patients," Berger said. "It's  time for the 
sheriff (Winters) to stop wasting the  taxpayer's money and stop 
litigating this issue."

He said the handgun permit denial by Winters and other  sheriffs is a 
result of their opposition to the medical  marijuana law, rather than 
over any real issue with the  weapons permit.

Winters said he hadn't reviewed the court ruling yet  and would need 
to review it with his attorney before he  could make any comments.

Benjamin Bloom, Winters' attorney, said he couldn't  comment on the 
case or whether the decision would be  appealed until after he 
discussed it with Winters.

Willis, 53, volunteers with Patient Services, a  nonprofit that helps 
people obtain a medical marijuana  card.

She said she welcomed the ruling for herself and other  cardholders. 
"I"m so happy that we're starting to get  some equality, and it will 
move the state forward as a  whole," she said.

While the ruling went against Winters, Willis said she  supports the sheriff.

"He and his department were doing their job by  protecting me from 
some consequences on a federal  level," she said.

At the time she applied for the concealed handgun  license, Willis 
said, she had been a medical marijuana  user for four years to 
alleviate severe muscle spasms.

In a similar local case, medical marijuana card holder  Lori 
Duckworth, executive director of Southern Oregon  NORML, also has 
challenged Winters in court after he  denied her application for a 
concealed handgun permit.

Circuit Court Judge Ron Grensky on June 8 denied the  application and 
supported Winters' legal arguments,  putting Grensky's ruling at odds 
with those of Schively  and the Court of Appeals, according to 
Duckworth's  attorney, Mark Haneberg.

Haneberg said he would file a motion in Grensky's court  asking him 
to reconsider his earlier ruling in light of  the Court of Appeals' judgment.

"I'm filing a motion to reconsider so Judge Grensky can  eat a little 
crow," Haneberg said. However, he noted  that different judges often 
come up with different  rulings, and lawyers often have legal 
opinions that  don't hold up in the courts.

"I've eaten a little crow myself," he said.

In the Court of Appeals ruling, the court found that  Willis 
satisfied all the requirements of the state law  under Oregon Revised 
Statute 166.291.

According to the ruling, Winters conceded that Willis  fulfilled the 
state requirements that would make her  eligible for a handgun 
license, but Winters stated  federal law prevented him from issuing 
the handgun  license.

The Court of Appeals cited a paragraph in the Gun  Control Act that 
specifically gives states the right to  pass their own laws regarding 
gun ownership.

Also, the court said, the sheriff's arguments did not  convince the 
appellate judges that it is impossible to  comply with both the state 
law and the federal act.

"In sum, the circuit court correctly concluded that  Oregon's 
concealed handgun licensing statutes are not  preempted by the 
federal Gun Control Act," the court  determined.

The court noted that Oregon's law gives someone a  license for an 
action -- carrying a concealed weapon --  that would otherwise be illegal.

Likewise, the medical marijuana act allows someone to  do something 
that would otherwise be illegal in Oregon,  the court said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom