California Reinstates Medical Marijuana Card Program

July 19, 2005

Brendan Coyne , The New Standard

Ten days after suspending a newly-instituted program providing identification cards to users of medical marijuana, the California State Department of Health Services (CDHS) on Monday announced it would start issuing the cards again.

The decision came after a review of the state’s Compassionate Use Act by the state Attorney General’s Office found that state employees would not be violating anti-drug laws in issuing the cards.

In explaining the legal review, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan K. Renner noted that the federal government can subpoena information from the CDHS to prosecute medicinal marijuana users for federal crimes.

The DHS will alter the cards to inform recipients of the risk, according to a DHS statement released Monday. The 123 people currently possessing the cards will be notified by the Department, the statement said.

As previously reported by TheNewStandard, the CDHS temporarily halted dispensing medical marijuana IDs and requested a legal review of the program in light of last month’s Supreme Court ruling that state medical marijuana laws do not preclude federal prosecution of users, distributors or doctors facilitating patient use of the illegal drug.

The review by the Attorney General’s Office found that 'the federal government cannot force state officials to enforce federal laws,' and that the ID program itself does not violate any federal criminal statutes, according to the letter

The American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance released a statement supporting the state Attorney General’s decision. Last week, in response to the stay in issuing ID cards, the two groups had threatened to sue California to force the CDHS to issue the cards.



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