, Salem, MA

The Nation

April 4, 2011

Medical marijuana users fight for gun rights



Sixteen states now have medical marijuana laws, according to NORML, an advocacy group. There is no way to determine how many medical marijuana cardholders also have gun permits. Patient lists are confidential, and an Oregon court ruled the sheriffs can't look at them.

NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre said Oregon courts have not been entirely medical marijuana friendly. While they have upheld the right to pack a pistol, they have also ruled that employers can fire people who use medical marijuana.

"A person who uses medical cannabis should not have to give up their fundamental rights as enumerated by the Constitution,"' St. Pierre said.

Gordon said he expects the gun issue to come up in other states with medical marijuana laws.

Oregon was the first state in the country to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with legislation enacted in 1973. And it was right behind California in making medical marijuana legal when voters approved a ballot measure in 1998. But voters here stopped short of following California all the way to selling medical marijuana to cardholders at dispensaries. A ballot measure failed last year, so patients still have to grow their own or get someone else to grow it for them at cost, with no profit margin.

Oregon is one of 37 states where the sheriff has to give a concealed handgun permit to anyone meeting the list of criteria, though they have some discretion to say what those criteria are. They generally require people to be 21, a U.S. citizen, pass a gun safety course, and have no criminal record or history of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, or domestic violence.

The issue doesn't really come up in California, where concealed handgun licenses are much harder to get.

If Willis loses, she plans to carry her pistol out in the open, in a holster on her hip, which is, under Oregon law, perfectly legal.

"I've been done harm in my life and it won't ever happen again,"' she said about her reasons for wanting the gun. "I've never had to draw it"'

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