County will issue pot cards

May 02, 2006

Tim Morancan, Modesto Bee

Stanislaus County residents will be able to get county-issued medical marijuana identification cards in the future.

But they won't be able to buy the drug legally here, if county Board of Supervisors Chairman Ray Simon has anything to do with it.

Deputy County Counsel Dean Wright told the board Tuesday that state law mandates medical marijuana cards be issued by the county public health department.

The cards would be issued to people who have prescriptions from their doctors to alleviate medical symptoms, Wright said.

Patients could show the cards to police officers to prove they are entitled to possess up to 8ounces of dried marijuana or 12 plants, Wright said.

The officer could check the information against a state database to verify that the person is entitled to have the drug.

Cleopathia Moore, associate director of the county Health Services Agency, said the agency is working on issuing cards. A request for bids to make the cards drew only one bidder that didn't meet the qualifications, Moore said.

There is no clear deadline for the county to have the cards, she said. About 23 of California's 58counties are issuing them.

The issue of whether the county should allow businesses to sell marijuana for medical purposes is a separate issue, and not mandated by the state, Wright said.

While California voters legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes almost 10years ago, the sale and possession of marijuana violates federal law, putting local jurisdictions in a quandary.

Wright said he is working with county Planning Commission Director Ron Freitas on how to deal with people who want to set up stores to sell marijuana.

Simon left no doubt about how he feels about the issue.

"If they choose to have a card and go to a county that allows the sale of it, that's their problem," Simon said.

"I will not be supporting sales of marijuana by any individual as long as I'm here," Simon said. "I suspect in the future you will find they will be trying to add mushrooms, heroin and other things to this. They will follow the president of Mexico. You will find they will push to add that to the cards in the future."

The Mexican legislature recently voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of previously illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Mexican President Vicente Fox indicated he would sign the legislation.

Medical marijuana stores have been banned in several cities in Stanislaus County, including Modesto, Patterson, Ceres and Turlock.

Modesto still has a medical marijuana dispensing business, California Healthcare Collective. It must close in July because of the city ban. A representative of the store declined to comment Tuesday.

Freitas said the county hasn't received any applications for a medical marijuana store. He said his department would try to put together a proposal for the board to have an ordinance on the books before someone tries to open a shop.

Other supervisors indicated Tuesday that they agreed with Simon.

Supervisor Bill O'Brien said he probably would oppose marijuana stores in the county.

"I think we all pretty much think alike on that issue. We do have to comply with the cards, but nothing in the law says we have to zone for marijuana stores," O'Brien said. "My guess is that they would have a tough time getting that passed."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini said he didn't think state law could supercede federal law on the matter.

"We don't have to and we won't allow it to be sold in this county," DeMartini said.

On the Net: www.co.stanislaus.ca.us/BOS/Agenda/2006/20060502/Corr07.pdf.

Bee staff writer Tim Morancan be reached at 578-2349or tmoran@modbee.com.



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