"Since Prop. 215's passage, enforcement has largely been left to local sheriffs and district attorneys, with mixed results. While medical marijuana enjoys strong official support in San Francisco, Oakland, Arcata, Marin, Mendocino, and elsewhere, in some places most notoriously in Placer County law enforcement officials have adopted a hard-line, throw-'em-all-in-jail approach similar to that of the federal government, which refuses to acknowledge that pot has any medical use despite mountains of evidence to the contrary."
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SUPE WANTS TO GIVE S.F. MEDICAL MARIJUANA USERS ID CARDS
Card-carrying pot smokers
SUP. MARK LENO introduced an ordinance last week that would create an identification card program for San Francisco residents who legally use or provide medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act, which California voters enacted in November 1996 via Proposition 215.
"The legislation is intended to attend to the needs of patients, providers, physicians, and police," Leno told the Bay Guardian. "But my greatest concern was for the patients."
The bill has been assigned to the Board of Supervisors' Public Health and Environment committee. Leno said he expects "resounding" support from the board.
Similar ID card programs have been instituted in other California cities and counties, but Leno's goes beyond them in several respects. Most significantly, the cards would be issued by the Department of Public Health, not the Police Department.
A police-run ID card program in the city of Arcata has been praised as a model of success by marijuana activists and law enforcement officials alike, but activists have long urged that medical marijuana be treated as a public health, not law enforcement, issue.
The San Francisco ordinance is also unique in that it would enable primary caregivers as well as patients to receive ID cards. Under the Compassionate Use Act, a caregiver can supply medical pot to users unable to grow their own.
Applicants would pay a sliding-scale fee for cards to cover the cost of the card program, which Leno said would probably be administered by a local nonprofit under DPH auspices.
The cards would bear a photograph of the holder and an identifying number either a driver's license, a passport, or a state ID card number but no other identifying information. A police officer would still have the right to verify a cardholder's identity, Leno said, "but we didn't want the card in and of itself to breach any sort of confidence."
To further ensure privacy, applications will be destroyed one week after cards are issued. However, the DPH would maintain a cross-referenced database of card numbers to ensure that no medical pot user has an inordinate number of caregivers and vice versa potential signs of illegal sales.
Dr. Herminia Palacio, special policy advisor to DPH director Mitchell Katz, told us that the Health Commission would discuss implementation of the ordinance at the same time as the Board of Supervisors and that DPH would probably issue a request for proposals to run the ID card program. S.B. 848, a bill by state senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) that would have created a statewide registration system, stalled in September after members of a task force could not agree on whether to make registration voluntary or mandatory.
Since Prop. 215's passage, enforcement has largely been left to local sheriffs and district attorneys, with mixed results. While medical marijuana enjoys strong official support in San Francisco, Oakland, Arcata, Marin, Mendocino, and elsewhere, in some places most notoriously in Placer County law enforcement officials have adopted a hard-line, throw-'em-all-in-jail approach similar to that of the federal government, which refuses to acknowledge that pot has any medical use despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), praised Leno's bill, saying "it shows a commitment on the part of San Francisco to proceed with the implementation of Prop. 215 despite Governor Davis's reluctance to go ahead with a statewide voluntary registration system."
In June Leno also proposed that nonprofit urban gardens, such as those run by the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG), be permitted to cultivate industrial hemp, which federal law does not distinguish from marijuana. Leno said the City Attorney's Office is still drafting appropriate legislation.
"It's an outrage that it's illegal to grow hemp in this country. It's fiscally irresponsible and in every way detrimental to the country's well-being," Leno said. "I would dare the federal government to bust us for growing hemp. I would love to bring the issue to a confrontation."