Judge grants medical pot user concealed weapon permit

A medical marijuana user is entitled to carry a concealed handgun, a local judge ruled.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley ordered Sheriff Mike Winters on Tuesday to grant renewal of a concealed handgun license to Cynthia Townsley Willis.

Winters said he had not yet read Schiveley's opinion and did not want to comment directly on the text of the ruling. But the sheriff did indicate he would take his case to a higher court.

"There is a high likelihood we will appeal this ruling," he said.

Willis could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Her last address listed with the courts was Central Point.

Willis' request for renewal of an expired concealed handgun license was denied in May 2007 by Sgt. Bob Grantham, acting on behalf of Winters.

The stated reason for the denial was Willis' response to an application question regarding marijuana use. Although court records show Willis indicated that her use of marijuana was both authorized and prescribed by a medical doctor, her affirmative answer was the sole basis for the denial as Willis met all the other statutory criteria, Schiveley's opinion stated.

Winters argued that marijuana is listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act as a schedule — drug. As such, marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use for treatment."

"Even though you may have an Oregon Medical Marijuana card, for purposes of federal law, you are clearly an illegal user of marijuana," Winters said in his denial.

Willis appealed Winters' decision to the court in June.

Schiveley said Winters' two main arguments that federal statutes prohibit him from issuing the permit are incorrect. Winters' conclusion that federal firearms law pre-empts Oregon law is not applicable in this instance, the judge said.

"(Oregon) CHL statues do not purport to overrule, or in any other way address, who may lawfully possess a weapon under federal law. Thus, the state and federal statutes are not in clear and direct conflict, and pre-emption therefore does not apply," Schiveley wrote.

Winters also argued Willis' admissions to marijuana usage equate to an admission that she would be convicted of a felony if prosecuted by the federal government. A felony conviction acts to prohibit a person from being issued a concealed weapons permit, Winters said.

That argument also is incorrect, Schiveley said. Willis is not a convicted felon. And it is not the court's role to attempt to rewrite Oregon's CHL law to more closely conform to federal firearms law. Nor does the court want to attempt to broadly rewrite Oregon's CHL law to be certain it encompasses categories of people who are not parties to the case, and whose circumstances may be quite different from Willis, Schiveley stated.

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