County supports marijuana ID cards
March 01, 2007
Josh Fernandez, Daily DemocratWithin a few months, Yolo County medical marijuana patients will be eligible for ID cards that some say could save them a lot of legal hassles.
In a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Matt Rexroad and Duane Chamberlain dissenting, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to issue cards that verify the identity of patients who have been prescribed medical marijuana.
Under California law, medical marijuana use is legal for patients with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other serious ailments, however, some patients experience legal trouble when confronted by law enforcement.
The cards will be linked to a countywide Web site so law enforcement can log on at any time to check the authenticity of the identification.
Peter Simpson, executive director of Sacramento's Harm Reduction services, said these cards are an important step in working toward the decriminalization of medical marijuana.
"The war on drugs has become a war on marijuana possession," he said.
While many representatives from local advocacy groups turned out to speak in favor of the ID cards, the issue was not without its opponents.
"If this passes, it puts law enforcement in between a rock and a hard place," Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said. "Possession of marijuana is in violation of federal law. Period."
Both Reisig and Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto agreed that possession of marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, is still a punishable offense.
Prieto added that he is only protesting the violation of federal law, not the ID cards themselves.
The sheriff's stance prompted Supervisor Mike McGowan to ask a question: Which law would be enforced if someone were to be stopped with pot, the federal or the state law?
"We would be violating federal law if we don't do something," Reisig said.
The cards leave law enforcement in between a rock and a hard place, Prieto agreed.
However, the need to treat patients who are in pain outweighs the protests from Reisig and Prieto, Supervisor Helen Thomson said.
"It is time we got over, in this country, the strange way of dividing how we access drugs for pain and ... get over punishing people when they have pain instead of helping them," Thomson said.
The cards, which will be issued by the county health department, could be ready in as soon as a month, Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Bette Hinton said.
"We have to go back to set the fees (for the card)."
Fees will most likely be about $210, Hinton said, a price that many say is worth the legal hassles associated with being an unidentified medical marijuana patient.
- Reach Josh Fernandez at 406-6233 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org