Pubdate: Fri, 01 Aug 2014
Source: Calaveras Enterprise (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Calaveras Enterprise
Author: Dana Nichols


A Calaveras County Public Health Department manager says her agency 
will work out a way to allow applicants for medical marijuana ID 
cards to retain the original copy of their doctor recommendation.

Some medical marijuana advocates complained this year when the 
department began keeping the originals, something patients said 
caused problems later when they went to dispensaries.

"That makes it difficult for the patient, especially if they are not 
growing their own medicine. There are quite a few dispensaries that 
insist on seeing the original," said Tom Liberty of Collective 
Patient Resources, a nonprofit agency that advocates on behalf of 
medical marijuana patients.

Public Health Services Manager Linda Winn said the agency this year 
began keeping the originals based on state guidelines.

"We need to see the original recommendation with the original 
signature," she said. "What we have chosen to do is to keep the 
original as part of our policy. But if that is causing people 
problems, we can look at that policy."

Medical marijuana advocates said that a number of patients told them 
that Calaveras County's Public Health Department this year began 
keeping the original recommendations as an alternative to verifying 
its authenticity with the recommending physician.

Both Liberty and Jeremy Carlson, the operator of Little Trees 
Wellness Collective in Arnold, said that patients told them that 
Public Health staff had found that making the phone calls to verify 
the recommendations was time consuming. Staffers thus believed that 
simply keeping the original on file was a less-time-consuming alternative.

Not true, said Winn. She said that the county has always verified 
medical marijuana recommendation letters before issuing the ID cards.

Some medical marijuana patients choose to pay an annual fee and apply 
for the county-issued card because it is the only document that law 
enforcement officers are required to accept as proof that they are 
complying with the law if they are found in possession of the drug. 
Patients can also show their recommendation letter, but officers have 
discretion on whether to accept that as evidence that a person is a 
legitimate patient.

The ID cards, meanwhile, are of no use at dispensaries. Dispensaries 
are required by law to verify that a patient has a valid letter of 
recommendation from a licensed physician.

Carlson said he finds he can usually make the necessary phone calls 
to verify a recommendation letter fairly quickly.

"We may have 15, 20 patients sign up for the collective, and I have 
no trouble verifying them in one day," Carlson said.

Winn said county staffers have sometimes found it more difficult to 
successfully complete those calls. She said her agency's policy is 
that staff will fax the letter to the physician who issued it and 
make a follow-up call to confirm whether the letter is valid.

"And if we don't hear from (the doctor), we contact the individual 
(patient) and say they need to get us what we need," Winn said.

Then, she said, it is up to the patient to nudge the doctor to 
respond. If the letter can't be confirmed within 30 days, the 
application is closed and the patient has to start over again if they 
want an ID card.

Winn said that 52 people have applied for medical marijuana 
identification cards in Calaveras County so far this year, and that 
45 of those applicants were issued cards.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom