Pubdate: Sat,  8 Mar 2003
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Marin Independent Journal
Author:Richard Halstead, IJ reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Beginning April 1, the county of Marin will begin charging a $25 annual 
processing fee for its medical marijuana photo ID cards.

"This is the same fee that San Francisco charges. We believe that it will 
approximately cover the costs," Larry Meredith, Marin County's director of 
Health and Human Services, told county supervisors last week.

The board voted 3-0, with supervisors Hal Brown and Steve Kinsey absent, to 
implement the fee. There are currently 403 people using the cards, Meredith 

"We're getting about 50 applications a month," said Frima Stewart, a county 
health department administrator who oversees the program.

The number of people using the cards has increased significantly since 
Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle and Marin's municipal police chiefs 
pledged last year not to arrest card holders - unless there is probable 
cause of possession for sale or some other offense.

"They've agreed to honor the county card," said Lynnette Shaw, founder and 
director of Fairfax-based Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the 
county's only medical marijuana dispensary. "There have been very little 
problem with the patients getting busted."

Despite the success of the county's card, the Marin Alliance continues to 
issue its own card to its 1,970 registered members so that they can track 
their marijuana purchases for tax purposes.

"It's 100 percent deductible as a medical expense from state taxes," Shaw said.

Shaw originally advised Marin Alliance members to stay away from the 
county's certification process, which was initiated in 1997, after several 
early card holders were arrested.

Angered by District Attorney Paula Kamena's policy on medical marijuana 
enforcement, Shaw led an unsuccessful recall drive against Kamena in 2000. 
The election cost the county $500,000.

At the same time that local law enforcement officers agreed to take the 
card seriously, Kamena also eliminated guidelines from her office as to the 
maximum number of marijuana plants or pounds of pot that a card holder 
could possess without fear of prosecution.

"In effect, the recall worked because they quit busting the patients," Shaw 

But Kamena said that the new policy is not a green light for card holders 
to possess as much marijuana as they want. Prosecutors now judge each case 
based on the medical evidence available, Kamena said.

The county's card has been perfected over time.

At first, in addition to doctors, the county accepted recommendations from 
dentists, dental surgeons, podiatrists, psychologists, chiropractors and 
acupuncturists. These days card seekers must submit a physician's signed 
statement that cannabis will benefit their medical condition. Once a card 
is issued, the application is shredded.

In 2001, a photo ID was added to the card, and the card holder's address 
removed. Cards also contain serial numbers. Law enforcement officers in the 
field can call a 24-hour hotline to verify patients' registration.

While the county's ID card shields legitimate medical marijuana users from 
arrest and prosecution by local law enforcers, it provides no protection 
from federal prosecution.

Shaw isn't sure how the conviction of Oakland resident Ed Rosenthal on 
charges of felony conspiracy and cultivation charges last month will affect 
the Marin Alliance. Rosenthal had been deputized by the city of Oakland to 
grow marijuana for a patient's cooperative.

In June, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who presided over the 
Rosenthal case, ordered a permanent injunction against the Marin Alliance 
and other Northern California cannabis clubs. Those who continue to operate 
do so with the possibility of being held in contempt of court.

"Who knows what is going to happen," Shaw said. "It's very frightening."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager