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Julie Jankowski of Medford has a medical marijuana card and recently obtained a concealed handgun permit. - Jamie Lusch

Licensed and legal ... for now

A wallet containing both a medical marijuana card and a concealed handgun license is no longer a pipe dream for Medford resident Julie Jankowski.

Thanks to an Oregon Supreme Court ruling in May, Jankowski and other medical marijuana patients can obtain a concealed handgun license in Jackson County.

"I feel I have every right to use my medicine," Jankowski said. "I have every right to have a concealed handgun license."

Within weeks after the ruling, Jankowski headed down to the Sheriff's Department in downtown Medford and applied for her permit, receiving it on Aug. 26.

She said she wasn't asked many questions about her medical marijuana use, adding that she was treated fairly. Jankowski said she was ready to tell sheriff's officials anything they wanted to know.

"I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong," she said.

Andrea Carlson, spokeswoman for the sheriff, said more residents are admitting they use medical marijuana on the forms since the ruling.

The number of handgun license renewals has jumped markedly this year, but the number of new licenses issued is actually on par with last year, she said.

If current trends continue, 2011 could top the all-time high, reached in 2009, for the total number of renewals and new licenses.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 689 new licenses were issued and 1,417 licenses were renewed, for a total of 2,106. For the same period in 2010, 631 new licenses and 1,024 renewals were recorded, for a total of 1,655.

After the May Supreme Court ruling, the trend toward a greater number of renewals continued, but the number of new licenses issued stayed about the same.

From May 1 to Aug. 31, 265 new licenses and 738 renewals were issued, for a total of 1,003. For the same period in 2010, 266 new licenses and 525 renewals were issued, for a total of 791.

"We were down slightly for new licenses and up for renewals," Carlson said.

Statistics weren't readily available for how many residents had indicated they used medical marijuana on the forms, she said.

The record for most renewals and new licenses issued in Jackson County — 2,534 — was set in 2009, spurred by fears that the Obama administration might pass stricter gun-control laws.

The issue of providing concealed handgun licenses to medical marijuana users came up in 2008 when Sheriff Mike Winters denied Gold Hill resident Cynthia Willis a concealed handgun license. The sheriff cited the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits anyone who uses or is addicted to a controlled substance from having a firearm.

Willis, who uses cannabis for muscle spasms and arthritis pain, admitted to using medical marijuana when she filed her application with the sheriff for a concealed handgun license.

Willis won every legal battle against Winters both in Jackson County Circuit Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals. After losing the Court of Appeals case, Winters granted Willis a concealed handgun license while he pursued the appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Winters has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn't yet indicated whether it will hear the case. If Winters wins his appeal, the licenses could be revoked.

Statewide, almost 50,000 people have Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cards. Jackson County has 6,133 cardholders, the second-highest in the state after Multnomah County, with 8,512. Based on these statistics, one in every 33 Jackson County residents uses medical marijuana, compared with one in every 85 in Multnomah.

Dan Thornton, manager for Good Guys Guns in Medford, said he hasn't seen any spike in people taking gun classes since the Supreme Court ruling, but he didn't expect a spike anyway, he said, because people could have taken the class some time ago.

In addition, gun sales have been slow, Thornton said. "Money's tight."

Jankowski said she wanted to take the class to familiarize herself with her gun and to determine the best way to keep it secure.

Her Walther P-22 is safely locked in a case, and she went through the additional precaution of putting a trigger lock on it because she has three daughters.

"It's in the house, so it's got to be secured," she said. "I take very good care of my children. My 17-year-old is on the honor roll."

Jankowski, who smokes through a vaporizer, said she started using medical marijuana after traditional prescription drugs failed to alleviate the symptoms associated with trigeminal neuralgia, which has caused month-long headaches and sharp pains. She was once hospitalized for four days because of complications from the neuralgia, she said.

Even 10 years ago, Jankowski wouldn't have considered alternative treatments. "It wasn't appealing to me to smoke marijuana at the time," she said.

Having a concealed weapon has been on Jankowski's mind for personal security reasons for some time.

A singer with Stereotyped Blackgrass Band, Jankowski said she firmly believes in taking advantage of any rights that are available to her.

"I'm not ashamed of anything I do," she said.

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