ID card program is educational

April 14, 2005

Steve Gerace (Columnist), Mt. Shasta News

For the past six years, Marie Matlock has been registering medical marijuana patients in Siskiyou County and providing them with identification cards. Matlock founded Siskiyou County Medical Cannabis Co-op/Research & Registration Center as a non-profit public benefit incorporated organization. She operates as CEO and chairman of the board.

Though the cards are not officially recognized by government entities, Matlock sees them as 'an aid to help law enforcement to identify medical marijuana patients.'

Those who voluntarily register for the ID cards become members of SCMCC/R&RC and receive a packet of membership rules and guidelines, a packet of information detailing the rights of medical marijuana patients and information about growing medical marijuana.

Siskiyou County Sheriff's detective Mark Merrill, who works with the county's marijuana eradication team, says he believes Matlock's 'intent is legitimate.'

'She works in cooperation with law enforcement, and I appreciate that,' Merrill said.

But both Merrill and Siskiyou County Sheriff Rick Riggins point out that the medical marijuana cards issued by SCMCC/R&RC are not fully recognized by state or local officials, because the organization is not a state-affiliated entity.

Merrill said if someone were to show local law enforcement a medical marijuana ID card issued by Matlock - or even a copy of a physician's statement - 'We would try to verify that they have a current recommendation from a doctor.'

A recent news story reported that Siskiyou County is not yet part of a state-wide pilot program that will issue voluntary identification cards for medical marijuana users.

Ten counties in the state are participating in the program, which is a first step towards a state-mandated ID system that would place the identity of valid cardholders in a database accessible to law enforcement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Similar programs are already in place in Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Advocates of such a program say the benefit of having an ID card is that if law enforcement stops someone at any hour of the day or night, they will be able to confirm the identity of the cardholder, the validity of the card and the cardholder's right to possess marijuana.

Siskiyou County Public Health Officer Dr. David Herfindahl said the official state program is currently in the planning stages and in all likelihood will not make its way to Siskiyou County before the end of the year.

Matlock, who lives in Weed, goes through many of the same steps in issuing her medical marijuana ID cards that the government anticipates taking with its card program.

She verifies with the physician that the person seeking a card has a valid medical marijuana recommendation for one of the 165 'Conditions Treated with Cannabis International Classification of Disease

9-CM.' The list includes a wide range of conditions from writer's cramp to cancer.

SCMCC/R&RC holds an initial orientation meeting with each patient who registers for a card to explain the laws regarding medical marijuana as stated in Prop. 215 and Senate Bill 420.

The county Sheriff's Department is notified of all those who register with SCMCC/R&RC. The ID cards, which must be renewed annually, include the member's drivers license number, date of birth, eye coloring, height and condition or conditions for which they are being treated.

Matlock believes one of the benefits of the registration program is getting medical marijuana patients to be counted.

'The numbers count,' she says. 'When you register, you in essence are coming out of the closet, you get counted, or added to the government's list of ever increasing medical marijuana patients in California.'

'If the gay movement has made such a big statement, why can't medical marijuana users?' she said.

Matlock sees SCMCC/R&RC as 'a club that teaches the laws,' and she requires all members to sign a statement declaring they have read and understand the laws.

Members, who pay monthly dues of $15 or $25 for married couples, receive their card, a monthly newsletter that Marie publishes, and medical marijuana placards to be posted in the areas they use for smoking and growing marijuana.

Over the past six years, Matlock says she has registered 260 people between the ages of 18 and 72. The current number of valid ID card holders is 49.

Though she has never dispensed medical marijuana, Matlock said she has made proposals to local government officials to open a dispensary.

She believes medical marijuana made a huge difference in her recovery from the lower cerebellum, major Ischemic Stroke she suffered in 1999.

She said she was initially paralyzed on the entire right side of her body and spent years in physical therapy.

As her physical condition improved, she says she got together with some other medical marijuana users and formed SCMCC/R&RC.

Her organization is now one of dozens of cooperatives and support groups operating in California, although she says SCMCC/R&RC's medical marijuana ID card program is unique.



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