Medical marijuana ID program to be finalized

October 29, 2006

April Charlton, Santa Maria Times

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors plans to take the last step in establishing a medical-marijuana identification-card program when it meets next month.

In August, San Luis Obispo became the 22nd county in California to adopt an identification-card program for qualified medicinal users of the drug.

However, when the supervisors voted 3-2 to implement the program, Public Health Department staff hadn't yet calculated a fee for issuance of the cards. In the split vote, Supervisors Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall dissented.

But on Nov. 14, Health Department staff plans to ask the supervisors to amend the county fee schedule, adding a new $78 fee for the issuance of the identification cards.

The fee would be attached to each application that is processed at the Health Department, but Medi-Cal beneficiaries would only pay half the fee.

Proposition 215, which was passed by voters statewide in 1996 and legalizes marijuana use for medicinal purposes, specifies that Medi-Cal patients can only be charged 50 percent of fees for cards.

Because Medi-Cal patients will only pay half of the fee, it will cost the county $6,500 to implement the program, according to Dr. Greg Thomas, county Public Health administrator.

Thomas estimates the county will issue about 600 identification cards a year.

To obtain an identification card, individuals must possess a letter of recommendation from a licensed physician stating that they are prescribed marijuana for medicinal purposes, Thomas said.

County residents wishing to obtain an ID card will show their recommendation letter at the Health Department, where their picture will be taken digitally and then sent to state officials for further processing.

The state issues the card and then sends it back to the Health Department, which notifies the applicant to come get his or her card. The cards must be renewed annually or anytime that a patient changes his or her caregiver, Thomas said.

Senate Bill 420, passed in 2003, mandates that every county in California implement an identification-card program and begin issuing cards to qualified patients and caregivers.

The intent of the bill is to help law enforcement by creating a form of identification that is official and uniform throughout the state.

Under the county's identification-card program, patients and caregivers can possess eight ounces of marijuana at any time, six mature marijuana plants and 12 immature plants.

In July, the Board of Supervisors also voted 3-2 to amend the county's land-use ordinance allowing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.

April Charlton can be reached at 489-4206, Ext. 5016, or

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