California Backs Off Big Hike In MMJ ID Fees


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California health officials abandoned a plan to raise the cost of medical marijuana identification cards by more than tenfold after patient advocates and a state lawmaker complained.

The cards are designed to identify people who have a doctor's recommendation to use pot so they won't get harassed by police.

The fee was supposed to jump from $13 to $142 on Thursday.

But the state Department of Health Services decided instead at the last minute to boost the fees to a more modest $66 starting April 1.

The health department said the bigger hike was needed to cover the cost of the ID program, which has been poorly received by patients and the counties that are supposed to process applications and give out the cards.

State officials expected to issue 150,000 cards each year, but only 10,024 have been distributed since the program started in August 2005. Meanwhile, many jurisdictions have refused to participate. Only 24 of California's 58 counties issue the cards.

Advocates argued the huge fee increase — coupled with the fees counties also charge — would discourage even more people from applying.

The program was mandated as part of a voter-approved law that legalized pot use for medicinal purposes in California. It has suffered from low participation in part because some medical marijuana patients fear filling out an application would make it easier for them to be prosecuted by the federal government.

Author: The Associated Press
Copyright: 2007 The Orange County Register
Website: The Orange County Register
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