Up in smoke. Oregon, medical marijuana and the pistol in your pocket.

A recent decision by the Oregon Supreme Court holds that regular marijuana use under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) cannot be used to deny a person a concealed weapons permit.

Oregon Sheriffs in Washington and Jackson counties had denied concealed weapons permits to a number of people based on their open acknowledgments of regular marijuana use under the OMMA. The applicants sought judicial review of the Sheriff's denials and the issue was decided as a matter of state law by the Oregon Supreme Court in favor of the medical marijuana users.

But not so fast. While the Court was clear that Oregon's concealed weapons laws provided no basis for the Sheriff's to deny the concealed weapons applications of otherwise eligible "regular marijuana" users, the court also clearly acknowledged that such persons were placing themselves at risk of federal prosecution for unlawful possession of firearms. Hardly a result the applicants themselves likely foresaw.

Federal law does not recognize the legitimacy of Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act. Possession, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana that may be legal under the OMMA remain unlawful under federal law. Furthermore, federal law prohibits persons who unlawfully use controlled substances to possess firearms. Thus, people who under the OMMA "regularly" use marijuana commit a federal offense any time the possess a firearm concealed or otherwise. In fact, the prosecution could use a person's own admissions of marijuana use in a concealed weapons permit application against them in a federal prosecution.

Federal law also makes it a far more serious crime to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. To the extent that medical marijuana possessors, growers, distributors or caregivers are possessing firearms, concealed or otherwise, they are at risk for federal prosecution for an offense that carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Additionally, even if a medical marijuana participant is only prosecuted in federal court for their medical marijuana-related activities and not for the firearm offense, the fact that they possessed a firearm can be used to deny them relief from mandatory drug minimum sentences under the federal "Safety Valve" provisions.

If you or a loved one are engaged in the use, manufacture, distribution of marijuana or caregiving under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, you should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss the potential federal criminal ramifications of your participation in the program


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