Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in Oregon?

Can You Own a Gun with a Medical Card in Oregon?

Yes. Although federal law prohibits medical marijuana users from obtaining firearms, an Oregon Supreme Court ruling in 2011 states that medical marijuana cardholders may not be denied gun licenses solely based on their status as marijuana users.

Can Oregon Medical Cannabis Patients Legally Carry Firearms Without Permits?

Oregon medical cannabis patients can legally open carry firearms as the state does not issue licenses to residents seeking to open carry firearms. However, ORS 166.291 states that a conceal carry license is required to conceal carry firearms in the state. Per the 2011 Oregon supreme court ruling, MMJ patients may be able to obtain conceal carry licenses.

Does Oregon Require Background Checks for MMJ Patients Seeking Gun Licenses?

According to a 2015 Oregon law, private or unlicensed gun sellers must conduct background checks on firearms buyers. Also, ORS 166.438 and 166.434 require a prospective gun purchaser to undergo a background check before purchasing firearms at a gun show.

Since federal firearms licenses operate pursuant to federal law, anyone purchasing a gun from a federal firearm licensee (FFL) must undergo a background check. FFLs conduct background checks using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Can You Get an Oregon Medical Marijuana Card After Getting a Gun License?

Measure 67, the state's medical marijuana law, does not include any provision banning gun licensees from obtaining Oregon medical marijuana cards. Hence, you can get a medical marijuana card even if you have a gun license in the state.

Legal History of Gun Ownership for MMJ Patients in Oregon

Oregon's most significant litigation related to the gun rights of medical marijuana patients is the Willis v. Winters case which occurred in 2011. A patient brought a suit against the Jackson County sheriff for denying a concealed weapon permit application based on the plaintiff's status as a marijuana user. Although an Oregon high court ruled that the Sheriff was wrong in denying the plaintiff a concealed handgun permit, the Sheriff took the case all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Sheriff argued that issuing a permit would be a violation of the Federal Gun Control Act. The federal law makes it illegal for anyone who uses or possesses an illegal drug to possess or use a firearm. On May 19, 2011, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled unanimously that medical marijuana patient status does not strip an individual of their Second Amendment rights, at least as far as state law is concerned.

Hence, since medical marijuana patient status is not grounds for refusal of a weapons permit in Oregon, county sheriffs, being state law enforcement officials, must abide by state law and issue concealed handgun licenses to persons who qualify under Oregon law, even if they do not qualify under federal law.

What Federal Law Says About the Firearm Rights of Medical Marijuana Users

In the United States, a person’s right to possess firearms is protected by the Second Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has long held that the individual right to possess firearms applies to "law-abiding, responsible citizens" who use firearms for self-defense. Since marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, with no currently accepted medical use in treatment, medical marijuana patients are prohibited from possessing and purchasing firearms.

In Wilson v. Lynch, a medical marijuana cardholder in Nevada sought to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer. However, the dealer refused to sell Wilson a gun, being aware of Wilson’s status as a medical marijuana cardholder. The firearms dealer’s decision was consistent with an open letter sent by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to all federally licensed firearms dealers in 2011. The letter interpreted existing laws, including the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibit “unlawful users of controlled substances” from purchasing and possessing firearms, to incorporate medical marijuana patients regardless of whether the state legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

Since 2016, the ATF has included a new question in Form 4473 to verify the marijuana status of prospective firearms buyers. The form, also called the Firearms Transaction Record, must be completed before gun buyers may be allowed to purchase firearms. The form asks buyers if they are an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a stimulant, depressant, narcotic drug, or other controlled substance. Persons who state they are not marijuana users when they are medical marijuana patients are liable to be charged with perjury. Individuals found guilty may be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Still, litigations continue as the Gun Control Act is believed to infringe on Second Amendment rights. For example, the Fried v. Garland case filed by the Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and several medical cannabis patients challenges federal regulations prohibiting medical marijuana users from purchasing firearms. The plaintiffs argue that individuals using medical marijuana in accordance with state laws should not be deemed unfit to exercise their right to bear arms. While the case is pending in the Eleventh U.S. Court of Appeals, the outcome may have broader implications for the rights of medical marijuana patients across the country and could influence future legislative and legal developments at the federal level.

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