Pubdate: Thu, 5 Mar 2009
Source: Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Newspaper group
Author: Marcus Wohlsen, The Associated Press
Referenced: DMV's policy change
Referenced: ASA's lawsuit against the DMV
Cited: Americans for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Marijuana and Driving)


SAN FRANCISCO - State officials have spelled out guidelines saying 
California drivers cannot lose their licenses just because they have 
a medical marijuana prescription.

A revised Department of Motor Vehicles' training memo instructs 
agency staff to treat medical marijuana like any other prescription 
drug when considering whether to renew a driver's license. Medical 
marijuana is legal in Calfiornia under a 1996 voter-approved law.

Advocates released the memo this week and credited what they called 
changes in DMV policy to suits filed by patients whose licenses were revoked.

A DMV spokesman said the revisions do not represent a new policy but 
merely put into writing practices already in place.

"We do not automatically revoke the licenses of those who have a 
prescription for medical marijuana," said department spokesman Steve Haskins.

According to the memo, hearing officers deciding a renewal should 
handle medicinal marijuana use approved by a physician as they would 
any prescription medication that could affect safe driving.

"The hearing officer should inquire as to the frequency of use, time 
of use, and the relationship to driving as they would with the use of 
other prescribed medications," the memo says.

The memo still gives the DMV leeway to deny licenses to drivers 
addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, sued 
the DMV in November on behalf of 53-year-old Rose Johnson, who said 
the agency refused to renew her license because she was a medical 
marijuana patient.

Her attorney, Joe Elford, said DMV documents cited Johnson's 
marijuana use as the reason for denying her a license, even though 
she had a clean driving record for 37 years. The group has asserted 
that similar situations have occurred in at least eight counties.

Johnson was not accused of driving while under the influence of 
marijuana, which is still a crime, Elford said.

The DMV declined to comment on Johnson's suit or whether it was 
connected to the timing of the revised guidelines.

Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes said the group's 
attorneys had been in talks with the DMV over its medical marijuana policies.

Johnson's license was reinstated in January, and she plans to drop 
her lawsuit, Hermes said. 
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