Jackson Police to Respect the Will of the Voters


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In November, voters in Jackson, Michigan voted to pass a city ordinance that decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The ordinance applies to those 21 and older on private property. Now, Jackson police are determining how to enforce that law and what the law means by “private property. “

Jackson Police Chief Matthew Heins said the city police department has advised its officers to follow the new law.

“First and foremost, it was my objective to enforce what voters voted on,” Heins said. “We struggled with some details in the law, but it’s the law.”

Some of the subjects in the law Heins and others debated were what constitutes private property.

“Target is private property, for example,” Heins said. “But we don’t think it was the public’s intention to allow a 21-year-old to possess marijuana at your local Target.”

While the ordinance has removed criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, it is still unclear to what extent state and federal law will be enforced. As in Portland, Maine, the city has changed its laws, but state and federal laws remain the same. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office has stated that it will continue to prosecute cases pursuant to those laws, and Chief Heins admits that there will always be extenuating circumstances that could lead to an arrest despite the new ordinance.

However, despite any extenuating circumstances and confusion regarding the parameters of the law, it seems clear that the Jackson Police will respect the public’s voice and permit marijuana possession on (most) private property.

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Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Gun Rights for Patients


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Back in January, this blog mentioned a case in which an anti-marijuana sheriff in Jackson County, Oregon, was trying to deny the renewal of a concealed handgun permit for Cynthia Willis, a licensed medical marijuana patient. The sheriff was so adamant about the case that he took it all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. His primary argument was that granting a concealed handgun license to a patient (or in his terms, drug user) would be a violation of the Federal Gun Control Act. This law makes it illegal for anyone using or possessing an illegal drug to own or use a firearm. And of course, the federal government still considers marijuana in any form to be illegal.

Today, the court ruled unanimously that being a medical marijuana patient does not strip a person of his or her constitutional rights, at least as far as state law is concerned. From the court’s opinion:

Congress did not directly require the states to use their gun licensing mechanisms for the purpose of keeping guns out of the hands of marijuana users, and we conclude that Congress did not intend to achieve that same result by making it illegal for medical marijuana users to possess guns. The state’s decision not to use its gun licensing mechanism as a means of enforcing federal law does not pose an obstacle to the enforcement of that law. Federal officials can effectively enforce the federal prohibition on gun possession by marijuana users by arresting and turning over for prosecution those who violate it.

Ultimately, then, we reject the sheriffs’ contention that, to the extent that ORS 166.291 requires county sheriffs to issue CHLs to qualified applicants without regard to their use of medical marijuana, the statute is preempted by the federal prohibition on gun possession by marijuana users at 18 USC section 922(g)(3). The sheriffs cannot justify their denial of the applications at issue on that ground.

Basically, this means that because the Oregon gun licensing law does not substantially interfere with the ability of federal officials to enforce their gun control law, Oregon’s law is not pre-empted and is valid. The sheriff, being a state law enforcement official, must abide by state law and issue canceled handgun licenses to anyone who qualifies under Oregon law, even if that individual wouldn’t qualify under the federal scheme. Because being a medical marijuana patient is not grounds for refusal of a permit in Oregon, the sheriff must grant Ms. Willis’s concealed handgun permit even though she would still be liable under federal law for having a gun while using “illicit narcotics.”

Sound familiar?

It should. Check out the case of Gonzalez v. Raich (2005), which established that the federal government is free to enforce their marijuana laws despite California’s right to exempt medical marijuana users and caregivers from state criminal liability.

 

 

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