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SOUNDING OFF:Issue medical marijuana cards

When voters approved the landmark initiative that made possession, cultivation and use of medical marijuana legal under California law, the directive was clear: Ensure patients’ safe and legal access to their medicine.

More than a decade has passed since the enactment of Proposition 215 — but sadly, seriously ill patients still risk false arrest or citation by state and local law enforcement even when they are acting within state law.

This situation jeopardizes the health and safety of some of our most vulnerable citizens, wastes local tax dollars and contradicts the 74% majority of California voters who support our medical marijuana laws.

To help California law enforcement, the governor approved guidelines establishing a statewide identification card program for qualified patients and their caregivers, and mandated that all counties make it available.

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Once the ID card program is implemented locally, peace officers will able to verify a patient’s legal status with more ease and efficiency.

In no way does this program liberalize our current laws; the ID cards are simply a tool to curb abuse of the law. This program is administered by county health officials and used by patients with a bona-fide need for medical marijuana. It is for this reason that law enforcement generally supports the ID card in the 32 counties with approved programs.

California’s medical marijuana laws have been challenged in the courts many times and have never been overturned — in fact, most judicial rulings have only strengthened patients’ rights. Last December, the San Diego County Superior Court ruled that California’s medical marijuana laws are not trumped by federal law and that the county has a statutory obligation to issue the cards.

People treating the symptoms of disease shouldn’t have to worry about legal hassles for using doctor-recommended medicine.

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Although the program has been approved in a majority of California’s counties, local patients will not have the treatment they deserve until the medical marijuana ID card is available in Orange County.

Fortunately, Orange County’s Department of Health will be bringing this program before the Board of Supervisors on April 17.

Supervisor Pat Bates should make the reasonable choice and vote to begin issuing the ID cards as soon as possible — doing so will be send a message of support to both law enforcement and seriously ill patients in the fifth district.


  • F. AARON SMITH is the statewide coordinator with Safe Access Now, an organization dedicated to the implementation of fair and consistent guidelines in all California counties as a safe harbor from arrest under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

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