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Oregon medical marijuana users were treated to a mixed ruling earlier this week when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not allow local law enforcement to deny patients a concealed weapons permit under state law.
Though an important conclusion for those who champion legalization, the court's ruling also reminded the plaintiff Sheriffs that, if they so wish, they could skip the permitting, choose to enforce federal law, and just outright deny users of medical marijuana guns.
A conglomeration of various lawsuits, Willis v. Winters began when four different plaintiffs brought suit after being denied concealed weapons permits on the basis that they use marijuana. Each had the documentation required by Oregon medical marijuana laws.
All four Sheriffs argued that granting the permits would be in violation of federal law 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), which makes it illegal for "unlawful user[s] ... of a controlled substance ... to possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm ..."
Marijuana use, even if sanctioned by the state, is still illegal under federal law.
The Oregon Supreme Court differentiated between Oregon law, which deals only with the granting of a concealed weapons permit, and federal law, which deals with possession.
A person who is requesting a permit already has possession of the firearm, so granting a use permit to an Oregon medical marijuana user is not in violation of the federal possession ban.
However, this decision still leaves open the possibility that law enforcement can deny users of medical marijuana guns. A sheriff can conceivably arrest an Oregon medical marijuana user who is in possession of a gun, as he would technically be in violation of federal law.