Medicinal marijuana card rates to jump

February 21, 2007

, San Mateo County Times

On the heels of the announcement of a tenfold hike in the state fee for medical marijuana identification cards, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday to raise card fees to $174, a $129 increase.

Medi-Cal patients will continue to be eligible for a 50 percent discount; about 13 percent of San Mateo County cardholders qualify.

The county issued 510 cards in fiscal year 2005-2006 and predicts that it will issue 480 in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The county began issuing cards in January 2006.

Under Proposition 215 and SB 420, the California Department of Health Services maintains a statewide Medical Marijuana Identification Card registry program for qualified patients and their primary caregivers. Applicants apply for cards through their county health department.

Under the law, the state can charge a fee to cover operational costs, making the fee per card dependent on the number of cards issued. The state overestimated the number of cards to be issued in fiscal year 2005-2006, and set the fee too low at $13 per card. Based on revised estimates, the state has set a new fee of $142 per card. The remaining $32 is the county's cost of processing the application.

The Board of Supervisors will also vote to allow the Health Department to adjust the fee as necessary in future years to compensate for changes in the state's fee.

Last week, MediaNews reported that the rise has riled county health officials (24 counties in the state participate) and pot advocates, who say the sticker shock could turn away legitimate users and hobble a program that helps protect them from arrest and seizure.

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