Advocates Welcome State-Issued Medical Marijuana ID Cards

Sacramento -- California Department of Health Services today launched a pilot medical marijuana ID card program as outlined by a law passed by the California legislature in 3 California counties Amador, Del Norte, and Mendocino. Trinity County will begin its program in a couple of weeks. A wider state roll-out of the piloted system will commence this summer on August 1.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana rights organization, supports the program but points out that California law specifies (and DHS reiterates) participation in the ID program is voluntary for patients and the patient’s primary caregiver.  ASA Legal Director Kris Hermes said, 'We welcome this ID card system, but are concerned that law enforcement be well-informed that legal patients and caregivers are not required to obtain one, and should not be subject to harassment and seizure of their medicine if they don't choose to sign up.'
A CHP spokesman was quoted on February 16 in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that the agency would honor the state-issued ID cards but would continue its long-standing policy of confiscating marijuana seized from motorists unless a card was produced.
Joe Elford, ASA's Staff Attorney, said the CHP's position is illegal because SB 420 does not require that patients have a state-issued identification card, only a written or verbal doctor's authorization. ASA filed a lawsuit filed in February, naming the California Highway Patrol and Attorney General Bill Lockyer for CHP seizures of marijuana from people who have provided a written doctor's recommendation. 'One of the worst problems patients experience, bar none, is the unlawful arrest of patients and seizure of their medicine by police,' said Elford. 'We need to ensure that law enforcement respect qualified patients regardless of whether they hold an ID card.'
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From the website of the California Department of Health Services:
'The Medical Marijuana Program (MMP), within the California Department of Health Services, was established in 2004 to facilitate the registration of qualified patients and their caregivers, through a statewide identification system.  Participation in the program is voluntary for patients and the patient’s primary caregiver.  Through their county of residence, qualified patients and their caregivers may apply for and be issued an identification card.  This card will be used to verify those patients and caregivers that have authorization to possess, grow, transport and/or use medical marijuana in California.  To facilitate the verification of authorized cardholders, a registration database is available on the Internet