Medical cannabis advocates
decry California fee increase
By Tamara Barak, Bay City News Service
January 20, 2007
A steep rate hike in state fees to obtain a medical marijuana
identification card has advocates worried about hassled patients
and wasted police resources.
The state fee is currently $13, but it will rise to $142 on March
Patients aren't currently required to have the identification
cards in order to purchase medical marijuana. However, the cards
are a tool for police to quickly determine that a patient is using
marijuana legally, and offer the user protection against being
mistakenly arrested by local or state law enforcement.
The federal government does not recognize Proposition
215, California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized
medical marijuana, and the identification cards do not protect
against federal prosecution. The identification card program,
also known as Senate
Bill 420, was passed in 2004 in the hopes of helping law enforcement
and protecting patients.
The rate hike "is obviously a significant barrier for patients
being able to receive the full protection of the law,'' William
Dolphin, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, said today.
The 11-fold increase is a matter of funding and the way the law
is set up, according to Michelle Mussuto, state Department of
"In order for the program to exist, it has to be funded
by fees, according to the law. The fees from the cards sustain
the program,'' she said.
The state requires counties to offer the identification card
program to medical marijuana users, but there is no deadline for
when they must comply. To date, 24 of California's 58 counties
have offered the program -- fewer than the state anticipated.
That means less money in fees for the state to run the program,
"In order to sustain the program -- make sure the database
is kept up to date and we have staff -- we have to use the money
from those fees,'' she said.
But Dolphin said the state is looking at the funding situation
the wrong way. The cards discourage wrongful arrests and seizures
of property, actually saving the state money, he said.
"Any time you put someone through the judicial system, you're
talking about an enormous cost to the taxpayers,'' he said. "While
they say they're trying to cover their costs, they would save
money by making the cards more readily available.''
Kevin Reed, president and founder of The Green Cross, a San Francisco
medical marijuana dispensary, wrote a letter to the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors Thursday urging them to take action against
the state increase.
The city's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, passed before
the state rate increase, will require marijuana dispensaries to
check the state IDs of their patients, Reed said. The cost of
the state ID card, along with county fees, doctors' visits and
additional ID cards for caregivers, would be too heavy a burden
to bear for many bedridden patients, he said.
Reed suggested San Francisco go back to issuing inexpensive medical
marijuana cards at the county level "at least until the state
card situation has worked out the kinks and all counties are online
to share the financial burden of the program.''
Kevin Reed (right). File photo (7/14/6).
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who authored the city
ordinance, was not available for comment today.
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