Medical pot issue pushed

August 12, 2007

Andrea Koskey, Appeal-Democrat (CA)

Yuba County residents may get a chance to voice their opinions on ID cards for medical marijuana users if county officials grant an organization’s request.

Safe Access Now, a nonprofit organization promoting legal access to medical marijuana, will submit a request during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to schedule public hearings to follow state law and implement an ID program.

“The county just hasn’t directed the work to a department,” said Aaron Smith, state coordinator for Safe Access Now. “Once action is taken by the county, patients can apply for the cards, making it easier for legitimate users.”

The state’s Compassionate Use Act, passed in 1996, allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. Similarly, in 2003, state legislators approved a bill enabling the state Department of Health Services to maintain a program issuing identification cards.

Smith said that by assigning the process to a department, Yuba County officials would be helping law enforcement as well as implementing the law.

“Right now, there is no way to identify legitimate users. It’s very difficult,” Smith said. “It’s up to law enforcement to determine if it’s verifiable. It’s a mechanism to curb abuse.”

To date, 35 of California’s 58 counties, including Butte, Plumas and Sierra, have adopted an ID card program and set fees averaging $150.

Some Yuba supervisors, however, said they were opposed to such an effort because they are opposed to the law.

“When federal law conforms to the state law, then it’ll be considered,” Supervisor Don Schrader said. “But this argument has come up many times; I don’t think it’s appropriate for the board to get involved in state law.”

Supervisor John Nicoletti added that a lawsuit in San Diego County over the legality of medical marijuana has the Yuba County Board of Supervisors waiting and watching.

“We’re all just glad we’re not in the middle, but watching on the sidelines,” he said. “Right now, we’re just waiting to see how that lawsuit goes.”

Steve King, a member of the Compassionate Use Group of Yuba and Sutter, said an ID card program should have been implemented long ago.

“The law passed in 2003,” he said. “Basically, it’s a card to show officers when they’re stopped and verify they are legitimate.”

Smith will present information about the state’s medical marijuana laws to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, while urging elected officials to set public hearing dates to implement the law.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Andrea Koskey can be reached at 749-4709 or at akoskey@appealdemocrat.com

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