San Diego City Council Committee Recommends ID Cards for Medical Marijuana Users
A San Diego City Council committee Wednesday recommended that the city develop identification cards for medical marijuana users to "protect them from arrest," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Huard, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/9). Such a system would help identify those eligible to use marijuana under Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved ballot initiative that allows individuals to possess, cultivate and use marijuana for medicinal purposes (California Healthline, 5/8). By a 4-1 margin, the council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee voted to have the citizens' Marijuana Task Force, which was created in May to develop guidelines for implementing Proposition 215, create an identification card program similar to San Francisco's system. Last year, San Francisco began allowing physician-approved medical marijuana users to pay a $25 fee to receive a city identification card. Under the San Diego proposal, cards would be issued by the county Public Health Department. The plan needs approval from the county Board of Supervisors. However, the Union-Tribune reports that if the county supervisors do not approve of the plan, cards could be issued through the Police Department. Juliana Humphrey, chair of the task force, said, "Identification is the No. 1 issue on patients' and doctors' minds right now -- how do they prove they are legitimate users." Police Sgt. David Robowits said that the cards would "ease the burden on officers." However, he added that county- or state-issued cards would "be best" because they would apply to a larger area. Casting the lone dissenting vote, council member Brian Maienschein said the plan was "premature" because the courts have not resolved the conflict between state and federal law over Proposition 215 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/9). Proposition 215 conflicts with federal law that prohibits growing or possessing marijuana, and the Supreme Court recently ruled that distribution of the drug by independent cooperatives was illegal (California Healthline, 6/21). If approved, council member Ralph Inzunza, who sponsored the measure, hopes to have a program implemented by the end of the year (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/9).
Referring to the committee's recommendation to implement medical marijuana user ID cards, a Union-Tribune editorial says that the "problem is, there is no such thing as medical marijuana." Although there are "major studies underway" to assess the marijuana's therapeutic value, the editorial notes that the American Medical Association has "rejected the use of marijuana as medicine because there isn't enough research yet." Pointing to the Supreme Court's recent ruling on medical marijuana, the editorial says that city council members should remember that "[m]edical marijuana is against the law." The editorial concludes: "We wish council members were as concerned about treating drug addiction as they are about pushing medicinal marijuana. San Diego desperately needs more treatment facilities, and council members could help find locations in the city. If local politicians want to champion a drug issue, expanding treatment provides far more public benefit than medical marijuana" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.