Pubdate: Thu, 07 Feb 2008
Source: Sierra Sun (Truckee, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Sierra Sun
Author: Julie Brown
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


County Cards Will Back Up Marijuana Prescription

Without hesitation Tuesday, the Placer County Board of  Supervisors 
unanimously approved a medical marijuana  identification card program.

California State Senate Bill 420, which was passed in  2004 and built 
off of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act,  requires that all counties 
handle the application  process for the voluntary identification 
card, which  will register patients prescribed marijuana in 
a  statewide database and further validate their  possession of the 
illegal drug in the eyes of law  enforcement.

Placer County was the fortieth of 58 counties in the  state to 
approve the program, and county officials said  applications would be 
available starting March 1 at the  Vital Records Office in Auburn.

Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz said he didn't  recall any board 
discussion over the program at  Tuesday's meeting.

"Since we have to do it anyhow, it wasn't that much of  an issue," 
Kranz said. "It just passed on through."

For patients, the identification card will give them  additional 
justification for their possession of the  drug, said Aaron Smith, 
California legislative advocate  for the national nonprofit group, 
the Marijuana Policy  Project.

"The cards are really to present to law enforcement,"  Smith said.

Smith said that in many instances patients are arrested  for their 
possession of marijuana, despite their  prescription, because it is 
difficult for the law  enforcement officer to verify the authenticity 
of the  doctor's order.

The identification card and the database will back up a  patient's 

"[The card] is not a controversial issue," Smith said.  "We're not 
talking about some new policy. We're talking  about implementing an 
existing law."

While California voters approved the use of medicinal  marijuana in 
1996, the drug remains illegal under  federal law. The identification 
card only operates  under state law, said Dr. Mark Starr, Placer 
County  director of Community Health.

"[The marijuana identification card] doesn't mean that  it's a carte 
blanche, under federal law certainly and  all avenues of life," Starr 
said. "But it does allow  someone to possess certain amounts and use 
it under  California law."

Starr said patients wishing to obtain the $125 photo ID  will be 
required to present identification, proof of  their residence in the 
county and their prescription.  The county will then verify the 
validity of that  prescription as well as the standing of the 
physician  who wrote it.

"[The card] is just a tool to allow a layer of validity  if 
[patients] are going to use this medication that  does things that no 
other medication can do," Starr  said.

The California Department of Public Health estimated  Placer County 
would receive 250 applicants per year,  gauging the number off of the 
total 325,000 county  residents.

The El Dorado County Public Health Department, which  implemented the 
program in Aug. 2007, has since handed  out 30 applications, and 
given out a total of 13 cards.  In 2006, the population of El Dorado 
County was marked  at 171,207.

"It's a relatively small group of people that are in  serious need of 
this medication," Smith said. "So it's  not something where you have 
people lining up to get  this card."

The medical marijuana identification card item was  brought forth at 
Tuesday's meeting with a series of  other fee adjustments relating to 
the county's  Department of Health and Human Services, including 
raised laboratory fees and a certificate of still  birth.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom