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Fee For Medical Marijuana I.D. Card May Double

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
RIVERSIDE The cost to obtain a medical marijuana identification card is projected to more than double in Riverside County in the next six months, after a state-imposed rate hike takes effect, a health department official said Tuesday.

Qualified patients can currently obtain a medical marijuana card for $100, but the cost would jump to $220 on July 1 if approved as expected by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, according to Dr. Victoria Burns, chief of the Medical Marijuana I.D. Card Program at the county Department of Public Health.

"The state has increased their costs to us," Burns said, "so we will be doing our own fee increase to accommodate that."

Under California's Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003, patients who get a doctor's approval can purchase limited quantities of marijuana from dispensaries for relief of long-term pain. In Riverside County, 390 people currently carry the appropriate form of identification, according to Burns.

"You have to get a doctor's recommendation, prove you're a resident, and pay the fee," she said. "Then my office will verify everything to make sure all the requirements established by law are met to get the I.D., which looks a lot like your standard driver's license."

She said that when the program became active in Riverside County in December 2005, the state wanted $13 for every card issued. The county mandated a $100 fee to cover all regulatory expenses and the state tax.

As of March 1, Burns said, California will increase its share of fee revenue to $142 for every card, more than 10 times the current amount. In response, the county will need to hike its fee to $220, covering all necessary expenses, she said.

"The state intended to issue 3,000 cards to the county, but that kind of demand isn't there," Burns said. "From what I understand, they paid for the development of this program, including a database, and they counted on money to come in and offset those costs, but it just hasn't happened."

According to Burns, some county residents who would otherwise qualify for an I.D. card may not go through with applying for one to protect their privacy.

She added that Los Angeles County had not yet formed its own program, further limiting the amount of revenue that might otherwise fill state coffers.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted in early October to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries or Cannabis clubs in unincorporated areas of the county. However, incorporated cities can regulate dispensaries under guidelines built into their own municipal codes.

According to Ray Smith of the county executive office, the supervisors will wait until July 1 to vote on a fee increase because the timetable coincides with an annual review period for the medical marijuana program.

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