State registry clarifies pot use

July 26, 2005

EDITORIAL, Whittier Daily News

The state Department of Health Services has, smartly, reversed its recent decision to stop the planned medical marijuana identification system in California. Health department officials had stopped the ID card rollout after last month's Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the federal government's authority to prosecute medical marijuana cases. Health officials asked for an opinion from state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who reiterated that the court's decision doesn't change California law, which allows the use of medical marijuana with a doctor's permission. The IDs will now have one extra addition, though, wording to explain that the card-bearer is not immune from federal prosecution. Most patients are already well aware what they are getting into. And the ID program isn't aimed at the feds, anyway; it's to help local law enforcement officers quickly determine if a patient has the legal right, under state law, to possess marijuana. The ID system will also assist cannabis distribution clubs as they strive for legitimacy in the eyes of the community and law enforcement officials. Area communities have looked askance at the clubs, fearing they would attract crime and 'druggies.' After neighborhood outcry in Hacienda Heights, an unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County Supervisors, led by Don Knabe who represents that community, enacted a moratorium on so-called cannabis clubs. Too late for upset Hacienda Heights residents, where the Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collective rushed to open just prior to the temporary ban. Last week, Pasadena permanently banned the dispensaries, partly because of reports out of Northern California that the establishments appeared to be fronts for pot smokers who would inhale for non-health reasons. Amid such confusion and conflicting laws surrounding medicinal pot in individual cities, California's ID card and registry will offer one key measure of clarification who is a legitimate patient under state law and who isn't. Once in place, the system could erase many of the lingering doubts about the legitimacy of the clubs and their members.

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