Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2005
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2005 Associated Press
Author: Lisa Leff, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich (


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Citing uncertainty prompted by a recent U.S. Supreme 
Court ruling, California health officials suspended a program on Friday 
that had begun providing patients who smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons 
with state-issued identification cards. State Health Director Sandra Shewry 
has asked the state Attorney General's office to review the court ruling to 
determine whether the ID program would put patients and state employees at 
risk of federal prosecution.

"I am concerned about unintended potential consequences of issuing medical 
marijuana ID cards that could affect medical marijuana users, their 
families and staff of the California Department of Health Services," Shewry 
said. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer did not immediately 
return a call seeking comment.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a 6-3 decision that people who 
smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain or other 
conditions can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws. The ruling 
did not strike down laws in California and nine other states that permit 
medical cannabis use, but said federal drug laws take precedence.

The state health department in May launched a pilot pot card program in 
three Northern California counties - Amador, Del Norte and Mendocino. One 
purpose of the cards is to give medical pot users a way to show they have a 
legitimate reason for possessing pot if they are stopped by law enforcement.

So far, cards have been issued to 123 people under the pilot program, which 
was due to expand statewide by the end of the summer. Following Friday's 
move, officials in the three counties already issuing the cards were told 
not to process any more applications. The health department also has 
postponed processing requests from other counties that wanted to start 
issuing the cards.

Other counties and cities that issue their own cards, such as San 
Francisco, are unaffected by the state's action.

Besides being worried that state or local government workers could be 
charged with aiding and abetting individuals in committing federal crimes, 
Shewry said she was concerned that information gathered to produce the 
cards might be seized by federal authorities to identify and prosecute 
medical marijuana patients.
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