Pot card demand slow and steady

February 21, 2006

Laura Ernde, ANG Newspapers

Demand for medical marijuana cards in San Mateo County has been slow but steady in the first six weeks of the program, local health officials said.

Fifty-five people have applied for the state-issued cards, which allow people to possess or grow small amounts of marijuana for medical use, said John Conley, the county's deputy director of public health.

So far 40 cards have been issued. The remaining 15 applicants are having doctors' prescriptions verified, he said.

No one has been turned down yet, and most applicants appear to be older people with legitimate medical problems.

"We haven't had a lot wearing Grateful Dead T-shirts from 25 or 30 years ago," Conley said. "It appears the program is being used appropriately."

One of the most common questions the applicants have is where to get marijuana.

Health department officials answer by saying that state law allows patients to grow up to six mature plants. Though there are no known pot clubs in the county, San Francisco has a number of dispensaries where patients could ostensibly use the card.

The state, which issues the cards according to applications processed by county officials, has estimated that 2,800 people will eventually apply for the cards in San Mateo County.

"That's always seemed like a lot to us, but we never know. We honestly didn't know what to expect when we started the program," Conley said.

Statewide, 1,255 cards have been issued in the 16 counties that have adopted the program, said California Health Department spokeswoman Norma Arceo.

In San Mateo County, applicants pay $45 a year for the cards. They must provide proof of identity, proof they live in the county, and a note from a licensed doctor in good standing with the state.

Applications are accepted in person at Public Vital Statistics, 225 37th Ave., San Mateo. Business hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., except Thursday, when the office closes at 4 p.m.

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