Pubdate: Thu, 07 Feb 2008
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Tahoe Daily Tribune
Author: Julie Brown, Sierra Sun
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Approval Follows Last Year's Similar Program Implemented in El Dorado County

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 
prescription. "[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: Richard Lake