Pubdate: Sun, 25 Mar 2012
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Associated Press
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Lisa Leff, Associated Press


New Bill Would Require Medical Marijuana Users to Apply for 
Identification Cards

SAN FRANCISCO - California has seven times as many residents as 
Colorado, but nearly nine times fewer medical marijuana users, at 
least on paper.

And as far as record-keepers know, the most populous state, home to 
the nation's first and most liberal medical marijuana laws, also has 
a smaller number of pot patients than Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, 
Montana and Oregon.

If those statistics look off-kilter, they should. The reality is that 
no one knows how many people are legally using marijuana in 
California because the state - with hundreds of pot stores and 
clinics that issue medical marijuana recommendations - does not 
require residents to register as patients. Of the 16 states that 
allow the medicinal use of cannabis, it is one of only three without 
such a requirement.

Now, with California's medical marijuana industry laboring under a 
renewed federal crackdown that has forced many dispensaries to close, 
a state lawmaker has introduced legislation that, if passed, would 
give authorities a much clearer count of the drug's bona fide consumer base.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a San Jose Democrat, the bill 
would require anyone who wants to claim a legal right to use 
marijuana for health reasons to apply for a county-issued 
identification card. Marijuana patients also would have to say if 
they plan to grow their own pot or to purchase it from a patient 
collective, and name the collective.

The changes are designed to make it easier for police and sheriff's 
deputies to identify who can legally consume and grow marijuana and 
who is using medical marijuana laws as a cover for illegal drug 
possession or dealing, said Randy Perry, the Peace Officers Research 
Association of California lobbyist who wrote the bill.

California already has a state-run medical marijuana patient database 
and program under which counties are required to issue ID cards to 
eligible patients. Lawmakers adopted the program in 2003 as a way to 
protect legitimate medical patients from arrest when caught with 
marijuana in their cars. The registry was seen as a way to add a 
measure of control to California's voter-approved law that seven 
years earlier decriminalized marijuana for medical use.

The registry was made voluntary, however, and relatively few patients 
have signed up. The California Department of Public Health reports 
that during the fiscal year that ended last June, the state had only 
9,637 valid card holders. San Diego County had 1,623 of those.

In Colorado, by contrast, the state with a medical marijuana regime 
most similar to California's but where patient registration and 
annual renewal is mandatory, the total number of patients holding 
valid ID cards as of December was 82,089. If California's patients 
were registering at that rate, there would be more than 615,000 of them.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom