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Court rules weapon plus pot equals crime

MEDFORD — A federal appeals court has ruled that simply carrying a weapon while growing marijuana is a crime in itself.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of a Medford-area man who argued that keeping a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol within reach while sleeping in a tent at a marijuana operation was not a separate crime.

Somkhit Thongsy was charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a felony after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a large marijuana farm in the remote Wolf Creek area of Southern Oregon in the spring of 2007.

The appeals court ruled Monday the evidence the pistol was part of the drug operation was overwhelming, and it was not used for hunting or kept in the tent by accident.