Lack of medical marijuana ID card program violates state law

February 19, 2007

, Lassen News (CA)

“To not act on this and to not approve (a medical marijuana) ID card program would be a violation of state law,” Dennis Hines told the Lassen County Board of Supervisors last week. Marijuana possession for medical use became legal in California with passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Senate Bill 420, which implements the act, directs counties to set up a voluntary ID card program, giving medical marijuana users something to show law enforcement saying the bearer is entitled to carry eight ounces of marijuana.

The board considered the ID card program on Dec. 13, 2005. It voted to wait and see how other counties handled the legal requirement that each county approve the program and set up an application process.

The board also wanted to know the outcome of a San Diego County lawsuit against the state. San Diego, Merced and San Bernardino counties sued to avoid implementing the program because marijuana possession is illegal under federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that a federal ban on marijuana trumps any state laws allowing its use, including Prop 215.

In a decision filed on Dec. 6, 2006, San Diego Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt, Jr. upheld the Compassionate Use Act and denied the counties’ claim that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution overrode Prop. 215.

Nevitt cited the California Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Bronco Wine Company v. Jolly, saying federal law only supercedes state law when “that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” Since SB 420 simply removes penalties for marijuana cultivation, delivery and possession, and sets up the voluntary ID card program, the court found no conflict.

At the board’s Tuesday, Feb. 13 meeting, Hines gave the board copies of the court ruling. He said the San Diego court ruled in favor of cooperatives and individuals using medical marijuana.

Hines said instituting a medical marijuana ID program would not violate federal law regardless of whether individual board members approve of the use of marijuana.

He said ID programs are available in 24 counties and four additional counties have approved the program. Saying Los Angeles County has approved a medical marijuana ID card program, Hines urged the board to vote in favor of a program. He also suggested the board deserves a raise because of all the time board members spend on county issues.

SB 420 specifies each county must verify the address of the person applying for a card by checking proof of residency and a government-issued photo ID. The patient must also pay a $65 fee and submit written documentation from a physician verifying the client suffers from a serious medical condition and that the use of medical marijuana is appropriate.
The state will issue the card after the county health department screens the application and reviews it for completeness. If anything is missing the state automatically denies the application.

Once the application is entered into a computer the state will issue a card within five days. The county will notify the user when the card is available for pickup. Law enforcement officers can call a phone number printed on the card to verify its authenticity.

Because Hines was speaking during the public comment section of the board’s agenda, the board could take no action and did not comment on Hines’ request.

In January, Aaron Smith, the statewide coordinator for Safe Access Now, a Santa Rosa-based organization formed to defend the use of medical marijuana, said he would be keeping an eye on the board’s compliance with the state law.

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