Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2012
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2012 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Damian Mann


Medical Marijuana Cardholder Can Keep Her Concealed Handgun License

Concealed handgun owners with medical marijuana cards will be allowed 
to keep their licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision 
not to hear Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winter's legal challenge that 
asserted U.S. law trumps Oregon law.

Gold Hill resident Cynthia Willis, 54, said putting the case behind 
her is a victory for the rights of medical marijuana users throughout Oregon.

"Just because we're patients doesn't mean we don't have real 
lifestyles and rights like everyone else," she said.

Winters denied Willis a concealed handgun license in 2008 on the 
grounds that she uses medical marijuana, which is considered a 
controlled substance by the federal government. The sheriff argued 
that he couldn't give the license to Willis because that would 
violate the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Winters has lost every court case so far -- in Jackson County Circuit 
Court, the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court.

Winters appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in July, but has issued 
concealed handgun licenses to Willis and other medical marijuana 
cardholders as a result of the earlier court rulings.

The Supreme Court also decided this week not to hear a similar case 
from the sheriff in Washington County.

Portland attorney Lee Berger, who was part of a team of lawyers 
representing Willis, said this should send a message to Winters and 
others in law enforcement to respect the rights of medical marijuana patients.

"The problem is the sheriffs hate the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act," 
said Berger. "They find ways to discriminate against patients."

Ryan Kirchoff, attorney for Jackson County, said the decision by the 
Supreme Court not to hear the case does not necessarily mean it 
agrees with the lower court decision in Oregon.

Kirchoff said the county is disappointed the case didn't move 
forward, noting the justices had appeared to show more interest in 
the legal arguments presented by the county than in the majority of 
the 10,000 cases submitted to them each year.

"The sheriff feels that at this point he's done everything that had 
to be done to rectify the problem," Kirchoff said. "There is nothing 
further that can be done to resolve this particular issue until state 
law is changed or there is further direction from the Supreme Court."

Kirchoff said the Winters still believes there were strong legal 
reasons for pursuing the case through the court system and denied 
Berger's assertion that the sheriff was discriminating against 
medical marijuana patients.

"It certainly wasn't frivolous," he said. "This is based on his sworn 
duty to uphold state and federal laws."

The sheriff has said he believes federal law clearly states that 
using marijuana -- even for medical reasons -- bars a person from 
acquiring or possessing firearms.

Oregon's law does appear conflicted: A concealed handgun license can 
be issued to a medical marijuana patient who is deemed a law-abiding 
citizen but state law doesn't allow the sale of a weapon or 
ammunition to a medical marijuana patient.

Willis said she obtained her Walther P-22 pistol before she became a 
medical marijuana patient.

"My Walther was an anniversary present from my husband," she said. "I 
got this before all of this started happening."

She said there is no evidence to support the idea that medical 
marijuana patients are more prone to abusing gun rights than any 
other segment of the population.

"We had a former vice president who shot someone in the face, and he 
didn't get in any trouble," said Willis, referring to former Vice 
President Dick Cheney.

Willis said all gun owners should be responsible

"All weapons should be kept in a very safe place," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom