Senate Committee Approves ID Card Proposal for Medical Marijuana Users
The Senate Public Safety Committee last week approved a bill (SB 187) that would allow patients using medicinal marijuana to obtain identification cards to show that they are authorized to use the drug, the Sacramento Bee reports. The 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. Sponsored by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), the bill also would give the state Department of Health Services jurisdiction over how much of the drug a patient could "legally use" and how medical marijuana should be grown and sold. Patients would apply for identification cards through their county health agencies, which would run the program "in conjunction with the state." According to Vasconcellos, the proposal would help create a "single, statewide standard that local officials can apply uniformly" across the state.
Although a similar bill died in the Assembly last year, the new bill has the support of law enforcement officials, which Vasconcellos hopes will "bring enough votes" to get the measure approved. However, some patients and medical marijuana advocates raised concern that a district attorneys' group and police organizations, which originally opposed Proposition 215, are now supporting Vasconcellos' bill. Dennis Peron, a "driving force" behind Proposition 215, expressed concern that officials would use the bill to "restrict access to medical marijuana," saying that allowing these groups to help shape the law "is like asking right-to-lifers to regulate abortion." Peron added that "it is very intimidating for a sick person to register with the state for anything." However, Vasconcellos said that registry for ID cards would be voluntary, and all information would be kept confidential. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Gov. Gray Davis (D), who opposed last year's proposal, has not stated his position on the bill (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 5/7).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.