County supervisors on Monday tabled a proposed medical marijuana ordinance,
then approved a set of rules and procedures that accomplish many of the
same ends.

The county will now issue photo identification cards to persons medically
authorized to use marijuana to ease certain painful conditions, including
glaucoma, arthritis, AIDS symptoms and several forms of cancer. The rules
are based on those adopted earlier by Mendocino County and by the City of

The county has been under pressure to adopt a medical marijuana ordinance
since state voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Legal issues arising
from Prop 215 are still being fought out in federal courts.

In 1999 the county appointed an advisory committee to draft a medical
marijuana ordinance. The committee included law officers and potential
users or providers of medical marijuana, who have not invariably seen
eye-to-eye. The newly adopted rules and the tabled ordinance reflect as
much agreement as could be obtained on the issue.

Under the new procedures, approved the advisory Proposition 215 Committee,
the County Department of Health and Human Services will issue medical
marijuana patient identification cards to eligible persons. Police officers
will honor the cards, but will still use their own judgment as to whether
the amount of marijuana in the person's possession is reasonable, and will
confiscate any they consider excessive.

Sheriff Dennis Lewis said he will set departmental guidelines, which his
officers will be expected to observe.

The photo identification cards will be issued to county residents only, on
the written recommendation of a licensed California physician. The Public
Health Department will verify the physician's license and recommendation,
after which documents revealing the physician's identity will be destroyed.

County Health Officer Ann Lindsay said this confidentiality is necessary,
because some physicians fear legal liability, or have other reasons for not
wishing their recommendation of marijuana as a medical treatment to become

The patient identification card will expire when the physician says it
should, but if the recommendation is for more than one year, the card must
be renewed annually. An application fee will be charged the patient to
cover the county's cost in verifying the information, issuing the photo ID
card and maintaining records.

The Public Health Services Division will keep records of each patient's
name, address, date of birth, card number and date of expiration, which
will be provided during office hours to any law officer who requests it to
verify a card.

At the patient's written request, Public Health will also give this
information to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office to keep in its own
files, so officers can verify the card's validity 24 hours a day.

Lindsay or her successors will report to supervisors quarterly on the
progress of this pilot program, and on any problems that arise.

While approving the new rules unanimously, the board tabled the proposed
ordinance by a 3-1 vote, Supervisor Roger Rodoni dissenting. County Counsel
Tamara Falor recommended that it not be adopted until the U.S. Supreme
Court has ruled on whether California's medical marijuana law can coexist
with federal law.

The court is not ruling directly on Prop 215, but on an injunction sought
by the U.S. Department of Justice against six distributors of medical
marijuana. A ruling is expected in June.

The proposed ordinance had contained changes Falor recommended from an
original draft submitted on Aug. 16. It defines in some detail who may
receive a medical marijuana dispensation, who is authorized to grow and
provide marijuana for such a person, and how the drug may be transported
and distributed.

But the ordinance does not specify how much marijuana will be considered
legal to grow or possess for medical purpose. This has recently been the
most contentious issue between medical users and law officers, particularly
sheriff's deputies.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D

Newshawk: Jo-D and Tom-E
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2000
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ukiah Daily Journal
Address: 590 S. School St. Ukiah, CA 95482
Fax: (707) 468-5780
Author: David Anderson, The Times-Standard