GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that a retired school bus driver can have her medical marijuana and a concealed handgun, too.
The ruling upheld previous decisions by the Oregon Court of Appeals and circuit court that determined a federal law barring criminals and drug addicts from buying firearms does not excuse sheriffs from issuing concealed weapons permits to people who hold medical marijuana cards and otherwise qualify.
"We hold that the Federal Gun Control Act does not pre-empt the state's concealed handgun licensing statute and, therefore, the sheriffs must issue (or renew) the requested licenses," Chief Justice Paul De Muniz wrote in the ruling issued in Salem.
Cynthia Willis, one of four plaintiffs, welcomed the ruling.
"I feel like a big girl now," Willis said. "I feel like a real human being now, not just a source of revenue to the county."
Leland Berger, the attorney representing Willis and other medical marijuana patients in the state, said the ruling was important in the continuing national debate over making marijuana legal to treat medical conditions.
"I am hopeful we will end cannabis prohibition the same way we ended alcohol prohibition, which was by refusing to enforce federal laws within the state," Berger said.
Berger noted that acceptance of medical marijuana continues to grow, with Delaware last week becoming the 16th state to make it legal.
Willis, 54, has carried a Walther .22-caliber automatic pistol for personal protection since a messy divorce several years ago.
She volunteers at a Medford smoke shop that helps medical marijuana patients find growers, and teaches how to get the most medical benefit from the pound-and-a-half of pot that card carriers are allowed to possess.
She uses marijuana cookies, joints and salves to treat arthritis pain and muscle spasms.
Elmer Dickens, a lawyer representing the sheriffs of Washington and Jackson counties, said the ruling provided needed clarification on whether the defendants should follow federal or state law on what has been a cloudy issue.
Dickens did not anticipate an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, because the ruling focused so tightly on state law.
"Every sheriff knows now what the rules are, and we got what we needed," he said.