Placer Supes approve medical pot ID program | SierraSun.com

Placer Supes approve medical pot ID program

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Without hesitation Tuesday, the Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a medical marijuana identification card program.

California State Senate Bill 420, which was passed in 2004 and built off of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, requires that all counties handle the application process for the voluntary identification card, which will register patients prescribed marijuana in a statewide database and further validate their possession of the illegal drug in the eyes of law enforcement.

Placer County was the fortieth of 58 counties in the state to approve the program, and county officials said applications would be available starting March 1 at the Vital Records Office in Auburn.

Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz said he didn’t recall any board discussion over the program at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Since we have to do it anyhow, it wasn’t that much of an issue,” Kranz said. “It just passed on through.”

For patients, the identification card will give them additional justification for their possession of the drug, said Aaron Smith, California legislative advocate for the national nonprofit group, the Marijuana Policy Project.

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“The cards are really to present to law enforcement,” Smith said.

Smith said that in many instances patients are arrested for their possession of marijuana, despite their prescription, because it is difficult for the law enforcement officer to verify the authenticity of the doctor’s order.

The identification card and the database will back up a patient’s prescription.

“[The card] is not a controversial issue,” Smith said. “We’re not talking about some new policy. We’re talking about implementing an existing law.”

While California voters approved the use of medicinal marijuana in 1996, the drug remains illegal under federal law. The identification card only operates under state law, said Dr. Mark Starr, Placer County director of Community Health.

“[The marijuana identification card] doesn’t mean that it’s a carte blanche, under federal law certainly and all avenues of life,” Starr said. “But it does allow someone to possess certain amounts and use it under California law.”

Starr said patients wishing to obtain the $125 photo ID will be required to present identification, proof of their residence in the county and their prescription. The county will then verify the validity of that prescription as well as the standing of the physician who wrote it.

“[The card] is just a tool to allow a layer of validity if [patients] are going to use this medication that does things that no other medication can do,” Starr said.

The California Department of Public Health estimated Placer County would receive 250 applicants per year, gauging the number off of the total 325,000 county residents.

The El Dorado County Public Health Department, which implemented the program in Aug. 2007, has since handed out 30 applications, and given out a total of 13 cards. In 2006, the population of El Dorado County was marked at 171,207.

“It’s a relatively small group of people that are in serious need of this medication,” Smith said. “So it’s not something where you have people lining up to get this card.”

The medical marijuana identification card item was brought forth at Tuesday’s meeting with a series of other fee adjustments relating to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, including raised laboratory fees and a certificate of still birth.