County may issue IDs for medical marijuana

June 22, 2009

Danny Bernardini, Contra Costa Times

After years of just saying no, Solano County may soon join most other counties in the state in offering a medical marijuana identification card program.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors will discuss the issue today and could become one of the last 10 counties in the state to process applications and issue state-produced identification cards to patients who qualify and have been recommended by a doctor.

Medi-Cal patients would pay $100 for the identification card, while patients not on Medi-Cal would be charged $200. State charges are included in the fee and all costs to the county would be offset, according to staff reports.

Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, was passed by voters to provide legal avenues for seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana. Then came SB 420, which allowed counties to issue the ID cards as part of the Medical Marijuana Identification Card program (MMIC) in 2005.

San Diego and San Bernardino counties challenge that law in court in 2006, claiming federal law superseded state law.

While most counties went ahead and began issuing the cards, 10 counties, including Solano, decided to wait for the court ruling. In the meantime, Solano has been sued by Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy group, for its refusal to issue ID cards.

San Diego and San Bernardino lost an appeal in California and took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which threw the case out in May. That left counties like Solano with no other options so, earlier this month, supervisors directed staff to look into the issue.

The county has since completed a study to find an appropriate fee to recover all costs of the MMIC. The fee includes state fees of $33 for Medi-Cal patients and $66 for other patients.

There are no legal reasons the county may not start the program, and as many as 500 MMIC applicants are expected the first year, a staff report said. Of those, 175 are expected to be Medi-Cal patients.

The supervisors meet today at 9 a.m. at 675 Texas St., Fairfield.




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