Scroll To Top

suspends medical marijuana IDs

suspends medical marijuana IDs

Because of concern about a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, California health officials suspended a program that had begun providing patients who smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons with state-issued identification cards. State health director Sandra Shewry on Friday asked the state attorney general's office to review the court ruling to determine whether the ID program would put patients and state employees at risk of federal prosecution.

"I am concerned about unintended potential consequences of issuing medical marijuana ID cards that could affect medical marijuana users, their families, and staff of the California Department of Health Services," Shewry said.

A spokeswoman for state attorney general Bill Lockyer said his office would review the health department's request, but she noted that Lockyer already has stated that nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Gonzales v. Raich compels California to address the issue. "He has said to law enforcement in some of the bulletins that have gone out that Raich does not impose a mandatory duty to enforce the federal controlled substances act against people who are using medical marijuana legally under California law," said spokeswoman Teresa Schilling.

Last month the Supreme Court said in a 6-3 decision that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain or other conditions can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws. The ruling did not strike down laws in California and nine other states that permit medical cannabis use but said federal drug laws take precedence.

Daniel Abrahamson, legal director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Friday that state health officials are reacting with unnecessary alarm because, in his view, the Supreme Court opinion has no bearing on the legality of the state's identification program.

Complying with a state mandate that lawmakers passed after California voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1996, the state health department in May launched a pilot pot card program in three Northern California counties: Amador, Del Norte, and Mendocino. One purpose of the cards is to give medical pot users a way to show they have a legitimate reason for possessing pot if they are stopped by law enforcement.

So far, cards have been issued to 123 people under the pilot program, which was due to expand statewide on August 1. Following Friday's move, officials in the three counties already issuing the cards were told not to process any more applications. The health department also has postponed processing requests from other counties that wanted to start issuing the cards.

Greg Franklin, state deputy director of health information and strategic planning, said that about $500,000 already has been spent on creating the technology and hiring a contractor to process the cards. If the program gets a clean bill of health from the attorney general, the health department's own lawyers would have to weigh in before officials could if and when to proceed. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff