State's medical marijuana program stumbling

February 22, 2007

EDITORIAL, The Record (Stockton)

California’s medical marijuana identification card program is sick.

The California Department of Health Services says county governments are on track to issue 8,656 of the cards in the fiscal year that ends June 30, or less than 6 percent of the 150,000 cards per year the agency expected when it told counties statewide to proceed with the program 18 months ago.

Locally, Calaveras County issued 12 of the cards in 2006, far fewer than the 174 cards per year initially projected. San Joaquin County has not yet issued any of the cards.

Medical marijuana users are not required to have the cards. And many say they’ve chosen to go without rather than pay card fees and risk drawing scrutiny by anti- marijuana law enforcement agencies because their names appear on county-maintained lists and in a state database.

The cards are intended to reduce the chances that medical pot users will face arrest or detention during delays while law officers check the validity of a doctor’s written recommendation the law requires. Law enforcement officials say the cards make it easier for them to quickly determine who can legally possess marijuana.

Some medical marijuana proponents blame state and local politicians for resisting Proposition 215, the law legalizing medical marijuana which voters approved in 1996.

And they say that a $142-per-year increase in the state fee for the cards that takes effect in March will make matters worse by further discouraging medical marijuana patients, many of whom are poor and disabled.

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