Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jun 2009
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2009 North County Times
Author: Edward Sifuentes
Cited: San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Supervisors Also Will Consider Banning Dispensaries

San Diego County could begin accepting applications for medical 
marijuana ID cards by July 6 if the Board of Supervisors next week 
approves a plan to charge up to $166 for each card.

The county fought the state's medical marijuana law for years until 
the case hit a legal dead end last month, when the U.S. Supreme Court 
declined to hear an appeal from San Diego and San Bernardino counties.

If the plan is approved at Tuesday's meeting, the county will 
beginning the process of implementing the state law.

Also at the meeting, the board will consider prohibiting medical 
marijuana dispensaries from opening in the unincorporated areas of 
the county, according to agenda documents released late on Friday.

Medical marijuana patient and activist Rudy Reyes said the proposed 
price for the medical marijuana ID cards is too high. Reyes, of 
Santee, uses marijuana to alleviate the pain of third-degree burns 
suffered during the 2003 Cedar wildfire.

"Now, they are trying to make a penny off people they've tried to 
hurt for years," Reyes said.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said the county 
is simply trying to cover the cost to run the program.

The state requires a $66 fee and the county needs $100 to cover staff 
time and other administrative costs, she said. San Diego County's 
$166 fee would be $13 higher than neighboring Riverside and Los 
Angeles counties, which charge $153 for the cards.

The county's Health and Human Services Agency calculates that it will 
cost about $120,700 a year to process about 100 applications a month, 
Wooten said.

Under state law, counties are responsible for collecting and 
maintaining records, such as medical proof that patients were 
prescribed marijuana by their doctors. They must also transmit the 
information to the state.

There are about 31,000 medical marijuana patients in California, 
according to state data.

Low-income patients who are on Medi-Cal would get a 50 percent 
discount on the cards, or $83. Wooten said the ID cards would be 
valid for one year. When they expire, the cards would have to be 
renewed, including fees.

The Compassionate Use Act, which legalized marijuana for medical use 
in 1996, did not require counties to issue ID cards, but the state 
Legislature did by passing Senate Bill 420 in 2003.

San Diego County's challenge to overturn the Compassionate Use Act 
began in November 2005 with a split vote by supervisors to defy SB 420.

The ID card law was intended to help police officers identify 
legitimate medical marijuana patients.

California law allows for the prescription and possession of medical 
marijuana in amounts less than 8 ounces.

Reyes said the county should have created a committee, including 
medical marijuana advocates, to guide the Board of Supervisor's 
policies on the matter. Reyes said he would have preferred that a 
private, nonprofit organization handle the applications.

State law allows counties to designate nongovernment groups to 
process the applications, said Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the 
California Department of Public Health. He said he was unaware of how 
many counties did so.

Wooten said the county looked at "all options," and will administer 
the program in-house because it was the most efficient and 
cost-effective. Wooten added that she knew of only one county, 
Alameda, that did not process the applications itself.

If the program is approved, the county will publish a Web site with 
information about how to apply for the cards on Friday. Applications 
will only be accepted in person at the county's Health Services 
Complex, 3851 Rosecrans St., San Diego, beginning on July 6, Wooten said.

The county's Web site is: 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake