ID Cards Nixed in Tuolumne

February 14, 2006

Joshua Wolfson, Union-Democrat

A program to provide identification cards to Tuolumne County medical marijuana patients failed to win county approval yesterday.

The Board of Supervisors split 2-2 on whether to establish the state-mandated registration program.

The program, voluntary for users, would have provided state photo ID cards to people "authorized to engage in the medical use of marijuana," according to state law.

Although the county won't face any state penalties for not complying with the requirement, yesterday's decision does mean someone could file a lawsuit to force the county to adopt the program, County Counsel Gregory Oliver said.

Supervisors could have followed the lead of San Diego County and filed a lawsuit in federal court to avoid complying with the program. But that option failed to win support from the board.

"I'm against spending our local money to have a redundant lawsuit," Supervisor Dick Pland said. "There is already a lawsuit. We don't need another."

The issue is complicated by disagreement between the state and federal governments over the legality of medical marijuana.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which allows possession of marijuana for medicinal use with a doctor's recommendation. The state Legislature in 2003 created a law which requires counties to create identification card programs for medical marijuana users.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has held that people in California who use medical marijuana can still be prosecuted by the federal government.

So far, 16 counties have adopted a marijuana registration program, county Health Officer Todd Stolp said.

Tuolumne County's program would have required applicants to have a doctor's recommendation for medicinal marijuana. A panel of three local doctors, including the county health officer, would have reviewed each ID card request.

That applicants would not need a recommendation from a doctor practicing in Tuolumne County concerned Pland, who joined Supervisor Mark Thornton in voting against the program.

"That indicates a lack of local accountability," he said, referring to cases elsewhere where doctors have handed out questionable medical marijuana recommendations.

Voting for the program was tantamount to endorsing the concept of medical marijuana, Thornton said. He also worried that, in some cases, taxpayers would be subsidizing the program.

The county Health Department had planned on charging $60 for the card. Medi-Cal or County Medical Services Program patients would have been charged $30 instead.

Supervisors Liz Bass and Paolo Maffei voted for the ID card program. Maffei said it could be helpful, but wasn't perfect.

"People shouldn't have to sign a paper to get their pain medication," he said.

Medical marijuana advocates are split on whether an ID card program is a good thing.

Some have concerns over registering with the government. Others said the card could be useful.

"The card is there to protect people who are concerned with law enforcement harassment," F. Aaron Smith, of the medical marijuana advocacy group Safe Access Now, told supervisors.

 

Contact Joshua Wolfson at jwolfson@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4531.



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