Cynthia Townsley Willis takes a dose of tincture containing THC at Voter Power Wednesday. She says the marijuana helps her control muscle spasms. - Jamie Lusch

Woman says gun ruling vindicates her stand

A medical marijuana user who prevailed in court over the sheriff's attempt to block renewal of her concealed handgun license said Wednesday she is thrilled with the judge's ruling.

"I feel fabulous about the judge. I am not a criminal and I feel I have the right to have a concealed weapon permit," said Cynthia Townsley Willis.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Schiveley agreed with Willis' assessment and on Tuesday ordered Sheriff Mike Winters to grant renewal of her permit.

"Now we just have to wait and see if the sheriff will appeal the judge's decision," said Willis.

Winters on Tuesday said he had not yet read Schiveley's opinion but that he likely would appeal. He did not immediately return calls Wednesday afternoon.

Willis, 51, said she is "a retired school bus driver with no criminal record."

Willis believes in her right to bear arms and has had a concealed weapon permit for several years.

"I was the only girl in my NRA (National Rifle Association) class at age 12," she said.

She is manager of the Medford office of Voter Power, an Oregon nonprofit established in 2001 that advocates for cannabis laws and policies.

Willis has been a medical marijuana user for the past four years "due to severe muscle spasms," she said.

"I was qualified by two different doctors," Willis said, adding she orally ingests a liquid tincture of TCH which is suspended in glycerine.

"I usually take it at night. I try to be medicine-free during the day," Willis said.

After Willis' request for renewal of an expired concealed handgun license was denied in May 2007, she hired attorney Leland Berger.

Berger, who has been practicing criminal defense for more than 20 years, helped draft Oregon's medical marijuana law and specializes in defending medical marijuana patients and victims of cannabis prohibition.

Winters argued that marijuana is listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug. As such, marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use for treatment."

"Even though you may have an Oregon Medical Marijuana card, for purposes of federal law, you are clearly an illegal user of marijuana," Winters said in his denial.

Oregon statutes specifically limit the authority of the sheriff to issue, revoke or deny renewals for concealed weapon permits, Berger said.

"If the sheriff wants to deny sick or dying people their right to medical marijuana in order to carry a concealed weapon, then he needs to go to the Legislature and get the law changed," said Berger. "They lost, and they'll continue to lose, because they were wrong."

Berger argued Winters had no authority to deny his client a concealed weapon permit because Willis continues to meet all the prescribed criteria.

"There is no public safety concern with people like Cynthia Willis," said Berger. "She is super responsible in how she deals with her medicine and with her firearm."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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