Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guns for Stoners

If you came upon someone on the street who was smoking pot and clearly stoned, how would you feel if they were handed a loaded gun?  Do you think that person would have sound judgment, enough to handle a lethal weapon?  Would they have good aim?  Would you feel  safer? 

I know I wouldn't. 

But the Oregon Supreme Court disagrees.  Earlier this week they ruled that people with medical marijuana permits can be issued concealed carry permits, 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."

The article goes on to explain that the plaintiff, Willis, "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."

Honestly, I don't have too much of a problem with medical marijuana.  Like a majority of Oregonians, I feel it helps alleviate a variety of serious medical symptoms and is less damaging to society than alcohol or even cigarettes.

However, I firmly believe that guns should not be possessed by people who are using mind-altering drugs, whether they are legal or not.  This goes for alcohol, too.  Sadly, there is no law against them owning guns in this country simply for that reason, unless the drugs are illegal and they have been convicted of such crimes.  This ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court is a slap in the face of common sense.

Sure, I can see the coming argument.  You may say that medical marijuana users aren't your typical junky.  They are likely only to use their drug in their home, and are less likely to go out of the home while high. 

I would counter by saying that a gun in the home in their hands isn't any more safe than on the streets.  And there is nothing preventing them from walking out of the home, armed and stoned.

But consider also THIS article just the day after the previous one.  From the article:

Oregon's medical marijuana law provides a safe-haven for large-scale drug production and trafficking operations, law enforcement officials told state lawmakers Thursday in testimony supporting a proposed overhaul of the system.


Critics say the professional growers can cultivate massive marijuana plants that are each capable of producing dozens of pounds of pot. That creates a significant excess beyond the 1½ pounds a patient is eligible to possess, and some growers sell their surplus on the black market. Designated "caregivers" are allowed to possess the marijuana designated for patients in their care, so becoming a caregiver for 10 patients would give someone cover to transport 15 pounds of marijuana.

Now, I'm certain the vast majority of medical marijuana distributors and users are not criminals.  Still, some clearly are, according to law enforcement professionals who testified.  Thanks to the Oregon Supreme Court, they can now be legally armed in public, too.

Interestingly, there is also a bill written by the extremist group, Oregon Firearms Federation, and submitted by Representative Thatcher, their voicebox in the legislature, which proposes that anyone convicted of misdemeanor marijuana crimes (including non-medical marijuana) should be allowed to carry concealed as well.  House Bill 2789 was referred to the Judiciary Committee, last I knew, but isn't likely to get traction.  Still, it is disturbing to me that any leader would even propose such a heinous attack on common sense.   Never mind that those who are convicted of this crime likely have been convicted of other drug crimes, but I digress.  I call this the "Guns for Stoners" bill.  It's one of a number of very dangerous pro-gun bills introduced this year in Oregon.

I'm glad that the plaintiff mentioned earlier, Willis, feels "like a big girl now" or a "real human being" because the Oregon Supreme Court says she can pack heat and be stoned in public.  But I don't want to be anywhere near her if I could help it, and it doesn't give me any sort of sense of "liberty" knowing she is able to blow me away if she feels threatened in her mind-altered manner.

UPDATE (7/27/11):  The case is appealed by the Sheriff and heads to the U.S. Supreme Court:  http://www.kval.com/news/health/126264363.html.  Let's hope for a ruling in the Sheriff's favor.

UPDATE (1/10/12):  The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, thus letting stand the Oregon Appeals Court ruling allowing Oregonians with medical marijuana permits to be allowed concealed carry permits, as recognized by Oregon.  Of course, medical marijuana is still considered illegal at a federal level, as is the carrying of a gun by drug offenders.  So there is still gray area here.


  1. Like wow, man, I've got a gun.

    Look at the flashes wheen I fire it!

    ALl that blood flowing is sooo grooovvvyyy!


    Now, we just need to make sure that the mentally ill are well armed.

  2. If I have a couple of beers once a week, and have too much to drive safely maybe once a year--I should not be allowed to drive or have a gun even when I am sober?

  3. Interestingly while your local sheriff may be forced to issue a carry permit, the national NICS background check may still limit the purchase of new guns:

    Question 12e:
    "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?"

    A radical idea, but maybe the solution is to not smoke pot if it creates so many complex life issues?

  4. Baldr: “I'm glad that the plaintiff mentioned earlier, Willis, feels "like a big girl now" or a "real human being" because the Oregon Supreme Court says she can pack heat and be stoned in public.”

    Did the Oregon Supreme Court really say that? All I see is that they said they can’t deny a CCW because someone is legally able to possess pot. One can legally purchase and posses alcohol and carry a gun with a permit so long as they are not under the influence.

  5. Posted by Baldr (sorry, the log-in system is having problems for me)

    @TS: Yes, they did rule that they can't deny a CCW because of having a medical marijuana license. But, as I said in the post, having the license doesn't prevent the holder from being high in public or making important, potentially lethal choices while high. Mix that with legal gun ownership and you have a potentially deadly combination.

    As for alcohol, that's a whole other bag, as it is less regulated and far more prevalent, and thus a more deadly combination with guns. Not much can be done about that issue, but that doesn't excuse adding marijuana to the list of mind-altering substances that a person can legally use and have guns at the same time.

  6. Ok, look at this another way. I can get a prescription from my doctor for narcotic painkillers and still get a firearm.

    It is up to me not to carry while I'm under the influence which legally in my state is not simply taking it but being impaired by it.

    If it is legally medical marijuana, I don't see the issue.. It's just like any other prescription.

  7. Baldr,

    Ever have a bad nights sleep? Several in a row?

    Ever taken over the counter sleep aids, cold medicine, allergy medicines?

    How about ever not kept yourself hydrated?

    Many things can impair a person's judgment.

    We already have laws on the books to deal when that impairment becomes criminal.

    I find it hypocritical of you to try to deny people in pain the most effective tool for self defense; especially since those in need are often some of the least able to fight off an attacker.

    Guess you won't be satisfied until everyone but the cops and the military are disarmed, eh.

  8. Anonymous: Are you seriously trying to compare the mind-altering effects of marijuana to a bad night's sleep or being dehydrated? Get real. Even the effects of over-the-counter medicines don't even come close. Yes, using a lethal weapon under those conditions may be ill-advised, but hardly the same level of danger as being high.

    And, no, there are no laws against possessing guns during such impairments that I am aware of, though there should be.

  9. I would be astonished to find that Washington doesn't have laws already on the books that would forbid possessing a gun while impaired by any drugs, even federally-acceptable prescription medications--every state I am familiar with has such a law. So this law would not legalize carrying while high--at most, it legalizes carrying today if you were high yesterday.

    I ask my question again--according to you, If I have a couple of beers once a week, and have too much to drive safely maybe once a year--should I be allowed to drive or have a gun even when I am sober?

  10. Sevesteen: You'd think so, but I haven't found any such laws. Is this something you would support (a law that would make it criminal to possess a firearm while high or drunk)?

    If it were up to me, no, I wouldn't let you have a gun if you weren't able to stay sober. Sadly, that's not the law. All it takes is once to take a life.

  11. I think we are pretty clear that you wouldn't let people have a gun if they ever had so much as a parking ticket...

    As is fairly typical, you're answering a different question than I asked, and somehow twist 'unwilling to drive' into 'unable to stay sober'. To be clear, if I will be driving or handling guns, I can and do remain sober.

    It depends what you mean by possessing a gun while high or drunk--I would support a law restricting public possession of a gun while impaired, so long as possession is defined properly--that is, on your person or physically handling.

    As I said, most if not all states already have such a law.

  12. I don't think the typical case is like Sevesteen describes himself.

    "a couple of beers once a week, and have too much to drive safely maybe once a year"

    I say a guy like that needs to leave his gun home on the one time a year. But the regular drinkers and the regular prescription drug users and the medical marijuana folks need to choose between their intoxicants and their gun rights.

  13. Baldr - I can't speak for federal law but Ohio doesn't allow having a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs... and it is the same for driving.

  14. Mike - That would be like saying you can have a car or you can drink.

    Unfortunately for you, every state I have been in has said.. you can have both, just not together. And if you violate that rule, there are consequences.

    It amazes me how you guys single out one item when there are many examples of how society deals with this issue without going to the level you want for firearms.

  15. Hey MikeB302000,

    When you owned firearms, did you ever drink?

    Did you ever do any other illegal substances while you owned firearms?

  16. Baldr: “But, as I said in the post, having the license doesn't prevent the holder from being high in public or making important, potentially lethal choices while high.”

    But it is still illegal for her to carry while high. This is the same as her being allowed to keep her driver’s license even though she has a medical marijuana card. She would still be thrown in jail for driving while high.

  17. You guys are very sure about Oregon laws regarding being high while possessing a gun. I'm still searching for this, but if you can help me find the statute I'd be appreciative. So far I haven't had luck.

  18. Baldr-do you understand the meaning of the phrase "law-abiding citizen"? You can pass all of the laws that you think necessary, and they will all be ignored by criminals. Today your group testified in the Senate that 3 school shootings were done by CHL holders...can you tell which ones, specifically? Or do you just specialize in misinformation?

  19. Anonymous (ashamed of you identity, are you?), your argument is circular, and is merely a reflection of the NRA bumpersticker slogan. By that logic, we shouldn't have any laws (against murder, theft, whatever), since bad guys will only break them. Obviously laws do have a positive effect on community safety, including those that regulate guns.

    As to your comment about school shootings, here are the three referenced by our group the other day. These were taken from the Violence Policy Center's Report, but it isn't by any means a comprehensive summary of all shootings nationwide, and I have heard of others:

    Shootings in schools by CHL holders, from VPC:
    Page 48: Brian McGuire, KY, middle school custodian shot and killed another cusodian
    June 9, 2009. Page 48 of VPC’s PDF http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/ccwprivatecitizens.pdf.

    Page 156: Texas. Oct. 13, 2008. CHL holder shot and killed fellow librarian in school
    library of Northeast Lakeview College.

    Page 157: 70-year-old CHL holder shot and killed ex-daughter-in-law as she was leaving
    her teaching job at a Head Start school. Utah.

  20. I haven't seen anyone on our side claim that license holders are perfect-but what is really important is rates of violence and misuse. There are 5 to 6 million of us, of course there will be a few bad apples. Every bit of evidence I've seen points to a vastly lower RATE of violence among license holders.

    If guns were the problem here, wouldn't our RATE be higher?

  21. I haven't seen comparisons of rates of crime by CHL holders versus those without, but it wouldn't surprise me that CHL holders have less gun crime. But there have been plenty on the pro-gun side who say it never happens, which is clearly wrong. (http://alawabidingcitizen.blogspot.com/).

  22. It isn't just less gun crime, it is less violent crime in general. Since you accept this, how do you justify opposition to concealed carry licenses?

  23. I never opposed concealed carry licenses, Sevesteen. What I oppose is giving conceal carry licenses to those who would be more likely to abuse the right. And, as I said in my last comment, we can't whitewash it and say that shootings by CHL holders won't occur, they do, illustrating the need to screen individuals carefully.

  24. You said that because I get tipsy once a year, I shouldn't be able to carry ever. You claim you are OK with carry licenses, but it appears that hardly anyone would qualify-To me, that is essentially the same as not allowing carry licenses.

    Can you explain the difference?

  25. You're putting words in my mouth again, Sevesteen.

    But I'll make it simple for you: If you drink in excess, you shouldn't have a gun around. Even if it is once a year. All it takes is once to make a lethal decision. Combine public intoxication with a concealed weapon and now you've likeling increased the potential of innocents getting hurt. If someone is found intoxicated and carrying a gun legally, their permit should be revoked. To you that apparently means "hardly anyone would qualify", but no one I know gets publicly intoxicated and carries.

  26. I don't think I'm putting words in your mouth. In response to my question

    "If I have a couple of beers once a week, and have too much to drive safely maybe once a year--should I be allowed to drive or have a gun even when I am sober?"

    Your response was

    If it were up to me, no, I wouldn't let you have a gun if you weren't able to stay sober

    If I were drunk while carrying, pull my license, that's fair. If I'm drunk some days, carry on other days, but never do both at once, that shouldn't be anyone else's business.

  27. "If you came upon someone on the street who was smoking pot and clearly stoned, how would you feel if they were handed a loaded gun?"

    This is a dumb question, because it's framed in a completely absurd way. Remove the "who was smoking pot and clearly stoned" part and I STILL wouldn't want them "handed a loaded gun"—nobody here advocates that we walk around the streets just handing random people loaded guns.

    And of course, obtaining a pistol license, concealed carry permit and legal handgun is much more involved, time consuming and expensive than just having someone hand you a gun. Get real.

    Try being a little less dramatic, and if you're going to pose hypothetical situations for us to respond to, make them realistic ones at least.

  28. Guav, it sounds dramatic, but this is exactly the case. In Oregon, a permit to allow for medical marijuana usage does not allow the consumer to smoke outside of the home, but it does not specify whether the consumer can leave their home stoned. If they are legally under the influence, in combination with a concealed weapons permit, then there is no reason at all that this person can't be stoned, in public, with a loaded firearm. Thus, my statement that you focus on is true, from the standpoint of authorization by the Oregon state government.

  29. "This is exactly the case."

    I do not think that phrase means what you think it means.

    Your in your unrealistic, fictional and totally—yes—overdramatic scenario, a random person smoking weed on the street, visibly stoned, is arbitrarily handed a loaded handgun (presumably with no background check or training).

    Here in what I like to call "reality," I'd have phrased the question like so:

    "How would you feel if someone who was legally authorized to posses medical marijuana was also legally authorized to carry a concealed firearm?"

    You see, that is exactly the case, it's just not nearly as hysterical as your invented scenario. And really, there was no reason for you to be so fictionally ridiculous, because my honestly framed scenario would still bother you and those on your side of the issue—you do not like the idea of someone who can legally get high to also legally carry a firearm on their person. You didn't need to exaggerate to get your point across. For that matter, let's be honest—you don't like the idea of ANYONE carrying a firearm on their person.

    Anyway, I'll tell you why the scenario (the real one, not your feverdream version) does not bother me all that much at all. First of all, I'm much more concerned about people who are drunk than people who are stoned on weed. People who are high on weed are fairly low on my list of "People I Am Afraid Of."

    "If they are legally under the influence, in combination with a concealed weapons permit, then there is no reason at all that this person can't be stoned, in public, with a loaded firearm."

    No reason at all OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT IT'S ILLEGAL, you mean? See, because right now—in ANY state—there is no reason at all that anyone possessing a legal or illegal handgun cannot get drunk, stoned, do coke or meth and then leave the house with a loaded firearm concealed on their person.

    Nothing except the law, of course.

    And it is despite your misleading characterization of the law, as other have pointed out, it is not legal for someone to carry the concealed firearm while they are under the influence (alcohol, weed, whatever).

    So someone who bothered to go through the legal hurdles of obtaining a medicinal marijuana permit and also bothered to go through the legal hurdles of obtaining a concealed carry permit is obviously fairly concerned with following the law, and it's highly unlikely that they are going to break the law—risking the revocation of both permits—by leaving the house stoned carrying a loaded firearm.

    It's just a very unlikely scenario in the first place, and extremely low on my list of public safety threats.

  30. Actually, Guav, according to Oregon law as I know it, it is not illegal to be high in public (though it is illegal to *smoke* marijuana in public), nor is it illegal to possess a handgun, with a permit, while stoned. It only becomes a crime once they fire the weapon, but by then it is too late. I've searched for such an ordinance or law, and have not found it.

    Not being a legal expert, I could be mistaken, though. Such a law *should* exist. If you know of such an Oregon law, please let me know.

  31. I was under the impression that it was against the law in OR to carry a firearm while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. If it is not illegal, then once again, my main concern would be people drunk, not stoned ... and even then, concealed carry permit holders are probably the least likely of all gun owners (legal or otherwise) to do some dumb shit with a gun—so I just don't see why this law has your panties in a bunch.

    I think it should be illegal to carry a gun while drunk, I don't however think it should be illegal to carry a gun if you've ever been drunk, or ever get drunk. The fact of the matter is that most Americans drink—including, I'm guessing, the tens of millions of current gun owners who manage to not shoot themselves or others despite occasionally drinking.

    For what it's worth, I don't do any drugs, nor drink a drop of alcohol ever. I guess I'm OK for a permit in your book :)

  32. I agree that guns and drunkenness is a severe problem. It should be illegal to carry a concealed weapon while drunk, high, or under the influence of a mind-altering medicine.

  33. Hey man, those are my Funyuns "BLAM BLAM BLAM".

    You really don't hear of people getting all "HOPPED UP ON POT" and committing crimes. If anything it mellows them out and keeps you from making such rash decisions. GUAV is right on with his assessment.