Area residents sign up for medical marijuana

February 02, 2006

Tom Lochner, Contra Costa Times

Buzz Fowler walked out of the Contra Costa County public health clinic in Concord on Thursday with a new-found appreciation for California.

"Now my state is helping me," Fowler said, moments after he had his picture taken for a Medical Marijuana Identification Card that will be valid statewide.

"We want to be good citizens," said Fowler, whose doctor prescribed him marijuana for pain from a severe head injury as well as a skin disease and a painful bone condition, he said. "We don't want to be illegal. We don't want to hide. This gives validation to people. They're not criminals."

Fowler, a West Contra Costa resident, was among several people the county photographed Thursday under its card program, which has been in place since Dec. 1.

"It took about a month for the first applicants to call," said Nancy Warren, a public health nurse and program manager of the county's medical marijuana cards.

The county has not issued any cards yet. Three people had their pictures taken earlier this month, but their applications did not check out, Warren said.

Applicants must make an appointment with the county for a photograph and provide supporting documents.

The county will verify the documents, including the authenticity of the doctor and his or her prescription, and forward them with the photograph to the state, which will send the card to the county within a few days, Warren said.

A caregiver designated by a patient can also apply for a card, Warren said.

More information about the program is available on the county health services department Web site at www.cchealth.org.

The cards are optional. All that is legally required is a doctor's permission and identification, Warren said, but users might want to have a card anyway.

"It protects them from arrest or prosecution if they're stopped by police and have no more than the allowable amounts of marijuana on their body or in their car," she said.

"I think it will also make police departments more comfortable knowing the information was verified that it was a real doctor and not a forgery created by your friend."

The allowable amounts are:

• Eight ounces of dried marijuana; and

• Six mature, flowering marijuana plants; or 12 immature, non-flowering, plants.

Fowler, 52, a Navy veteran and former union electrician, suffered his head injury in an on-the-job accident in 2001.

Today he runs MEDelivery, a service that delivers marijuana for a fee to people who cannot go to dispensaries to pick up their own for physical reasons or because of personal security concerns.

He likes the card program for its practical advantages, he said, but also for "the recognition that it gives us the right as citizens to do what is healthy for us.

"I want to make sure all of the rest of Contra Costa knows, hey we're getting there," he said.

"I feel juiced. I'm on the verge of crying. I've got butterflies in my stomach, jitters and goose bumps. And I'm loving it."

Reach Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@cctimes.com.

Information at www.cchealth.org



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