Residents, Doctor Sue Mendocino County Over Restriction on Medical Marijuana Permits
Two Mendocino County residents and a Berkeley-based physician are suing the county seeking to block its policy limiting medical marijuana permits to patients of local doctors, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The lawsuit, filed by county residents Andrea Nagy and Julian Gonzalez and Dr. Tod Mikuriya in Mendocino County Superior Court in February, states that the county policy is unfair because only patients whose doctors live in Mendocino County can obtain cards allowing them to possess medical marijuana. Similar medical marijuana programs in other counties do not have such restrictions, the Press Democrat reports. Mendocino County officials said expanding the program to include out-of-county doctors would place an undue burden on Dr. Marvin Trotter, the county public health officer, and his staff because they are required to review and authorize all applications before the county Sheriff's Office issues the medical marijuana cards. Trotter said the doctor residency requirement ensures that doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients are licensed and that they have "adequately examined" the patient. Trotter does make exceptions for terminally ill patients who visit doctors out of the county for AIDS or cancer treatments. Chief Deputy County Counsel Frank Zotter said the county would consider shutting down its medical marijuana card program if it loses the lawsuit (Wang, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/9).
In related news, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on Monday examined Mendocino County's medical marijuana card program, which has issued five times more cards per capita than other Northern California marijuana registries. County Sheriff Tony Craver, a "vocal supporter" of medical marijuana use, has issued 1,340 cards to approximately 1.5% of the county's 88,000 residents (Wang, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/9). The Press Democrat on Monday also profiled Dr. Richard White, a Mendocino County physician who has authorized medical marijuana cards for at least 619 county residents since April 2002 (Wang, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/9).
California Healthline rounds up editorial reactions to Mendocino County's medical marijuana card program in two newspapers. The following are summaries of those editorials.
Sacramento Bee: The high rate of medical marijuana cards distributed to Mendocino County residents "makes [the county], on a per-capita basis, a hotbed of pain and suffering -- or pot popularity," a Bee editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 6/10).
- Santa Rosa Press Democrat: The disparity between the number of medical marijuana cards granted in Mendocino County and other counties "testifies to the failure of the state Legislature to provide uniform standards to implement ... Proposition 215," a Press Democrat editorial states (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/10). Under Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 1996 and upheld by the state Supreme Court last July, patients with chronic diseases can use medical marijuana to treat pain (California Healthline, 6/5).