DHS Suspends Medical Marijuana ID Card Program
The Department of Health Services on Friday suspended a pilot program that issued photo identification cards to people who use marijuana for medical purposes while Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) reviews the legal implications of the program, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 7/9).
DHS Director Sandra Shewry in a statement said the agency is concerned the ID card program "potentially aids and abets individuals in committing a federal crime" (Reuters/Washington Post, 7/9). The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled that state laws permitting marijuana for medicinal use do not protect residents from prosecution under federal drug laws that prohibit marijuana (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 7/9).
DHS spokesperson Ken August said department officials have asked Lockyer to determine "whether information gathered from card holders could potentially be used by federal law enforcement officers to identify medical marijuana users for prosecution" (Los Angeles Times, 7/9).
August said suspension of the program does not affect medical marijuana users' ability to get a prescription for the drug from their physicians (Sacramento Bee, 7/9).
Lockyer spokesperson Teresa Schilling said the attorney general's office will review the issue and present a plan as soon as possible (Los Angeles Times, 7/9). Schilling noted Lockyer's office already has stated that the court ruling will not affect the state's stance on medical use of marijuana.
ID cards were issued to 123 people in Amador, Del Norte and Mendocino counties through the pilot program, which was scheduled to expand statewide on Aug. 1. Following Friday's announcement, officials in the three counties were told to halt processing of applications, and DHS postponed processing requests from other counties that wanted to start issuing cards through the state program (Leff, AP/Albany Times Union, 7/9).
Cards issued through county or city programs, such as San Francisco's program, are not affected by the state suspension (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/9).
Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver said he will comply with the suspension for the time being but will begin issuing cards again if medical marijuana users have trouble accessing the drug (Geniella, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 7/9).