Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reefer or Revolver?

Apparently, the Sheriff of Washington County, Oregon, has a conundrum. State law requires issuances of concealed handgun licenses to a minimum qualification, and pretty much this means if you are a citizen here, aren't a felon, dope-fiend, certified nutjob, and you take a class in gun safety or demonstrate by your history that you know which end the bullet comes out, the statute is shall-issue in your favor.

However ...

If you have a Medical Marijuana Card in the state of Oregon, which allows you to legally grow and smoke your own weed, according to state statutes, this, according to the Sheriff's Department, puts you ipso facto in violation of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 if you tote a gun around. Or even own such hardware. 

The language gets arcane and obtuse, as legalese is wont to do, and I won't try to parse it for you, you can do that yourself using the link below. Good luck if you aren't an attorney.

The federal statute basically says that certain classes of people are forbidden the possession of firearms, and one of these classes includes dope-smokers. So it is the Sheriff's contention that issuing a CHL to somebody who admits to smoking reefer is illegal, and that federal law trumps state in this case.

The tricky words here are possession and concealed. You'd think the latter requires the former, but apparently there is some hair-splitting about that, at least as far as the Sheriff's Office is concerned. I suppose it boils down to this: If you get a CHL, that doesn't mean you will carry a gun, or that you even need own one. One makes a presumption. 

You don't have to own a car to get a license to drive–you could use somebody else's, or rent one, to take the test. In Oregon (and in Washington) you don't have to demonstrate proficiency with a handgun per se to get the license, though I wonder how one splits that hair to take a CHL class. Is holding somebody else's piece in a class considered possession? Is that even required? Can you learn safety by looking at pictures? 

What if you were a competitive shooter before you were a dope-smoker? That could grandfather you in on the educational requirement, or at least it used could. Or if you passed the class before you ever toked up? 

Interesting can of worms, ain't it?

If you have to show up at the range with a pistol and demonstrate your skill with it, does that put things in a different light, vis a vis being a doper with a gun?

The Oregon Supreme Court has already allowed that possession of a firearm by (illegal) drug users is a no-no, so the notion that local law has to issue a license to carry an illegal handgun according to the feds apparently makes them nervous down at the courthouse in Hillsboro.

Hard to blame them, isn't it? 

Given the raids in California on marijuana dispensers by the feds, this would seem to be something they consider worthy of their time and our money, and it is not inconceivable that the Sheriff's could worry that he and his officers could be collared by the feds for issuing concealed carry licenses in the face of the federal law.

The Sheriff has decided to see if he can get SCOTUS to address it, thus filing this petition.

Given the court's docket, it might not come to pass, but it's a wonderful example of the horns of a dilemma, isn't it? You can get a Medical Marijuana Card in Oregon, but they can fire you from your job if you toke up even at home and then flunk the drug test. 

On a personal level it doesn't matter, I'm not gonna be courting reefer madness, no vipers here; on a legal level, it's a snafu. I think they should decriminalize this stuff and tax it; probably go a long way to balancing the budget, hey? 


Kai Jones said...

Steve-you don't have to demonstrate proficiency with a handgun to get a CHL. The minimum class that satisfies the requirement is a lecture about the law regarding CHL and what you are required to do as a CHL holder.

Kai Jones said...

Edit to add: to get a CHL in Oregon at this time. Laws are different in other states and may change at any time in this state.