Don't waste resources: ID program is overdue

January 11, 2009

Editorial, The Reporter

It is hard to believe that a county looking at all possible ways to cut expenses has resources to waste on a losing court battle, but that would seem to be the case in Solano County.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors and the Health and Social Services Department were sued because Solano continues to disregard a state law that requires counties to issue identification cards to patients whose physicians legitimately prescribe marijuana for a serious medical condition.

The law requiring counties to issue the cards was adopted by the Legislature in 2003 to clarify issues raised after voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Some 55 percent of Solano County voters joined the majority of Californians in approving that initiative.

And yet Solano County has steadfastly refused to follow state law on the matter.

The last time Supervisors voted on the issue, in 2006, the sentiment was that the board should wait until a San Diego County lawsuit concerning the legality of the state law was settled.

As it turns out, San Diego, which also does not wish to issue the cards, lost its case. The Superior Court upheld the validity of state-issued medical marijuana cards and the state Appeals and Supreme courts declined to hear any appeal. The final rejection came in October.

In August and again in October, the plaintiffs in the newest lawsuit, Americans for Safe Access, formally asked Solano County to establish a medical marijuana ID program. The plea fell on deaf ears, so the organization turned to the courts.

It is hard to imagine that judges are going to find in Solano's favor, considering not only the recent Supreme Court action but also an opinion by Attorney General Jerry Brown and instructions by the state Department of Publish Health, both requiring counties to provide the cards.

But it is easy to imagine that the courts will order the county to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees.

More to the point, it is foolish for the county not to issue the cards, which are specifically designed to help law officers determine who has a legitimate prescription for medical marijuana and who doesn't.

Statewide, 41 counties now issue the cards. Six more -- including neighboring Sacramento and San Joaquin counties -- are expected to implement the ID program this fiscal year. Solano is among only 11 holdouts.

It should stop fighting a losing battle and issue the cards.

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