County raises fees for medical marijuana

April 05, 2007

April Charlton, Times-Press-Recorder

The county’s medical marijuana identification card program was suspended Sunday, April 1, and won’t become effective again until the first week of May.

The program was shelved at the beginning of the month when the state’s identification card fee increase for took effect, according to Jeff Hamm, County Public Health Agency director.

On April 1, the state increased its fees for the identification cards to $66 for non-Medi-Cal patients and to $33 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

California law specifies that Medi-Cal beneficiaries can’t be charged more than 50 percent of the general fees charged for the identification cards.

The county was charging $78 for non-Medi-Cal patients and $39 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, of which $13 and $6.50 per application, respectively, was remitted to the state for its costs.

After an application is completed at the County Health Department by a qualified medical marijuana recipient, the application is sent to the state for processing.

The state increase triggered the county to amend the fees it charges for cards and suspend the program until the fee schedule was amended, which took place this week.

With a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance amending the county fee schedule for issuing medical marijuana identification cards.

Supervisors Jerry Lenthall and Harry Ovitt dissented.

The board adopted a new fee schedule of $65 for non-Medi-Cal beneficiaries and $32.50 for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, plus whatever the state sets as its fees, which fluctuate.

By the board adopting the new schedule plus whatever the state charges, the county won’t have to amend its fees each time the state does, according to Hamm.

The new county fees will initially be $131 and $65.50 until the next state increase, which will be added to the base fee schedule.

Hamm said the Health Department has to wait until 30 days after the board’s April 3 approval of the new fee schedule to start up the identification card program again.

“(The program) is going to be suspended for the month of April,” Hamm added.

Since the program’s inception in December 2006, the county has issued about 30 cards, with an average of nine to 10 applicants a month, Hamm said.

Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996, legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

California legislators also passed Senate Bill 420 in 2003, which mandates every county in the state to implement an identification card program and begin issuing cards to qualified patients and caregivers.

April Charlton can be reached at acharlton@timespressrecorder.com.



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