State medical marijuana cards issued locally now exceed 100

August 31, 2005

Quincy Cromer, Ukiah Daily Journal

The Mendocino County Public Health Department has supplied more than 100 state-issued identification cards for local medical marijuana patients in the past three months.

From June 1 through the end of July, Public Health has processed applications and presented 104 state-issued cards to recognize legitimate medical marijuana users and assist law enforcement agencies, according to Assistant Public Health Director Dan Taylor.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided medical marijuana users in 12 states could be prosecuted by federal agents without ruling on California's 1996 Prop. 215, which legalized medical marijuana in the state.

"We are issuing cards," he said. "The state program was temporarily suspended pending the Supreme Court Decision but we have essentially been in business all along except for that temporary suspension."

The state health department launched a pilot card program in May for three Northern California counties as a way to protect legitimate medical marijuana users and help law enforcement agencies.

"In case they are stopped by law enforcement for whatever reason, they are not going to be bothered for their medical marijuana unless they are over the legal limit of eight ounces of marijuana for medical reasons," Taylor said.

The previous ID card program in Mendocino County was recognized by law enforcement officials in the county, Taylor said, but medical marijuana users were not protected in other areas of the state.

"Under the old county card program that was administered by the Sheriff's Office, that card was only recognized in Mendocino County," Taylor said.

"The new state ID card is recognized anywhere in California and helps law enforcement agencies throughout the state because the cardholder has a legitimate reason to be carrying medical cannabis."

Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver said identification cards for medical marijuana users were first issued in June 1999, and he estimated there were approximately 1,200 outstanding cards when the county program ended last spring.

"When we contact someone that has an ID card, we are able to verify the fact that they have a legal right to have medical marijuana and in order for a person to be empowered to have marijuana they must have a recommendation from a physician, which doesn't have to be written, it can be verbal," Craver said.

"If this happens on a weekend or night when a doctor is not available there is no way to confirm that. What would happen prior to me taking office was the person was arrested and the marijuana was seized and an investigation was conducted and filed with the DA."

When running for office, Craver said he researched a medical marijuana identification card program implemented by Arcata Police Chief Mel Brown and wanted to start a program in Mendocino County.

"It is not right for people who are not breaking the law to be drug through court and I wanted to find a convenient way to pre-identify those people," he said. "In my opinion, it was highly successful and saved us a great deal of time.

After many regional programs proved to be successful in protecting authorized medical marijuana patients, Craver said he is happy California took the initiative to establish a statewide identification program.

"I really do applaud the state. When I was doing our program, I always said it was in need for a state program," he said.

People interested in obtaining a state-issued medical marijuana ID card must complete an application and provide information including a recommendation from their treating physician, a government-issued form of identification and proof of residency in Mendocino County. The application packet is then reviewed and a photograph is taken for the card.

Taylor said program staff then verifies the physician recommendation for medical marijuana use, confirms that the physician is licensed to practice medicine in California and enters the information on the statewide computer system along with the applicant photograph.

The state vendor then produces the identification card and mails it to the Public Health Department for distribution to the medical marijuana user.

Applications for a state-issued medical marijuana identification card are available at the Public Health Department on South Dora Street, at the Integrated Service Center on South Lenore Street in Willits and the Public Health Department on West Fir Street in Fort Bragg.

For more information about medical marijuana identification cards, contact the Public Health Department at 472-2784.

Quincy Cromer can be reached at udjqc@pacific.net .



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