Board Wants More Study Of Medical Marijuana

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Ill people who want the county to issue identification cards for medical marijuana use didn't get their wish Tuesday and learned that even if they had, they'd still be in a kind of cannabis Catch-22.

During the Orange County Board of Supervisors' debate on issuing the cards, a representative of Sheriff Mike Carona said if patients get the IDs, the sheriff wouldn't change his policy and would continue confiscating the marijuana and the prescription-like paperwork, despite earlier testimony from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas that he doesn't prosecute those cited for marijuana possession if they have proper medical documentation.

"It puts local law enforcement right in the middle of that debate where, quite frankly, we don't want to be," Assistant Sheriff Steve Bishop said.

Patients want the ID cards because they think they would protect them from police harassment and prosecution. But what they learned from Tuesday's debate is that the 11-year-old state law legalizing marijuana for medical use has become a morass of different interpretations.

Voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, and a 2003 state law ordered county health agencies to issue photo identification cards in the hope that verifying legitimate users of medicinal cannabis would be easier through a statewide database. Marijuana possession is still illegal under federal law.

After nearly four hours of testimony and debate, the Board of Supervisors decided more study is needed on whether the county should issue the ID cards. The panel voted 4-1 to order the Health Care Agency to draft an ordinance and bring it back in three months. Supervisors also added a list of potential issues to study, including law enforcement's role, a survey of other counties' protocols and a look at a test of the state law.

An exasperated Chris Norby, the board's chairman, argued that the board had a moral imperative to offer relief to suffering, ill people and provide a leadership role in implementing a state law.

"They're asking us to make them law abiders, not lawbreakers," he said of the many people who spoke in favor of the law.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen was the lone vote against the plan, saying it was "prudent" to wait for the outcome of a lawsuit filed by San Diego County, which sued the state because it doesn't want to implement the ID card program.

Rackauckas testified against the cards, saying people who want to "escape from the realities of life and get high for a while" will have an official license.

"It's going to increase the demand for marijuana in our county substantially. So where are they going to get it?" Rackauckas said. "Are we going to be supporting drug cartels by increasing the demand for marijuana in Orange County?"

James Kapko, a Yorba Linda man who suffers from multiple sclerosis, testified from his wheelchair that the state's medical marijuana program has many safeguards.

"They don't just hand out marijuana by the bucketful," he said. "It's not going to just be a wild free-for-all."

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Source: The Orange County Register
Copyright: 2007 The Orange County Register
Website: Article - News - Board wants more study of medical marijuana
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