County to apply sticker to medical marijuana ID cards
At the board’s Tuesday, Aug. 14 meeting, Assistant County Administrative Officer Kevin Mannel said state officials vetoed stamping the cards, but there’s nothing to stop the county from adding the sticker.
Unless the board instructed him otherwise, Mannel said he planned to have nickel-size yellow stickers printed with red lettering. Lassen County Public Health staff will apply the stickers to the cards and explain to card carriers that the medical marijuana ID card does not protect them from federal prosecution for marijuana possession.
None of the five board members objected and Chapman said he was glad the county has the ability to put a sticker on the cards.
A letter dated July 24 from Karen Parr, the chief of the medically indigent services section of the California Department of Public Health, states the cards, or MMICs, are produced through a contracted vendor “and the production price of the MMIC specified within the contract is based on the current design, therefore, it cannot be changed.”
It said any design changes would increase the card costs and any increase “must be passed on to the counties. Furthermore, in order to assist law enforcement in verifying valid medical marijuana patients or caregivers the information contained on the MMICs must be consistent statewide.”
The medical marijuana ID card application informs patients they are not protected from prosecution under federal law, Parr’s letter said, providing “sufficient notification to patients and primary caregivers of possible federal prosecution.”
“It appears that the letter can also be interpreted that we can comply with the sticker to meet the full intent of the previous board action and not conflict with the intent of the MMP program at the state level,” Mannel told the board.
Senate Bill 420, which implements Prop 215 and became law in January 2004, specifies a patient must have documentation from a physician verifying the client suffers from a serious medical condition and the use of medical marijuana is appropriate.
The client must pay a fee, which the resolution sets at $150, or $117 for those served by MediCal.
The county must verify the address of the person applying for a card by checking proof of residency and a government-issued photo ID. The state issues the card after the county health department screens the application and reviews it for completeness.
If anything is missing the state automatically denies the application.
Once the application is entered into a computer the state will issue a card within five days and send it to the county public health department. Public health staff then notifies the user to pick up the ID card.
Mannel said the staff can warn the recipient the card does not offer protection from federal prosecution one last time.
“The public health nurses will draw their attention to it,” he said. “We will place that sticker on the card, and then the recipient can leave. Obviously, from a practical standpoint, whether it’s stamped or a sticker is put on, the recipient can peal it off. It will be like a donor sticker on a driver’s license.”
Chapman said Mannel brought him a copy of Parr’s letter.
“It’s very clear the state doesn’t like the idea that we don’t want to conform to their program,” Chapman said. “And we fully expected that and fully appreciate that.”
Even though 56 percent of voters approved Prop 215, “it’s clearly not in conformance with federal law,” he said. “And it puts the county in the position of making a choice.”
Chapman said all the board members took an oath when sworn into office, vowing to uphold the constitutions and the laws of the United States and the state of California.
“It doesn’t say anything about when they’re in conflict,” he said. “To date, the Supreme Court has clearly ruled against the state in terms of its enforcement of the state law over federal statute and there’s an ongoing debate as to federal authorities attacking … citizens of our state who may think they have a certain amount of immunity to … federal law.”
The cards must be renewed annually, Mannel said, but he said he didn’t know if the card holder has to pay the fee each year. He added the physician recommendation is not a prescription.
“Otherwise you’d be prescribing an illegal substance,” he said.
If public health staff finds the sticker has been removed on most of the cards each year at renewal, Chapman said the board will have to revisit the program.
Adding the sticker should be cost neutral, Mannel said, if it adds any labor costs to the program, “we can include that in the overall fee.”
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