Two California Counties Nix Marijuana ID Cards

Fourteen years after Californians voted to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana, two counties — in violation of state law — are still refusing to issue official identification cards to cannabis patients.

The Sutter County Board of Supervisors’ rejection of a plan Tuesday night left the county as one of only two in the state — along with Colusa County — without such a program, reports Howard Yune at the Yuba Appeal-Democrat.

Senate Bill 420, passed in 2003, directs California counties to issue ID cards to patients using medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. Unfortunately, SB 420 doesn’t list specific sanctions against counties that refuse to do so.

The plan voted down by the marijuana-phobic Sutter County supervisors was so reasonable, so middle of the road, that even the county sheriff endorsed it.

Yes, even Sheriff J. Paul Parker last week endorsed the plan as a way to clearly separate medical marijuana patients apart from drug abusers and traffickers, lightening the workload for law enforcement.

Medical marijuana advocates warn that the refusal could invite expensive litigation from the state or from citizens to force the counties to issue the pot I.D. cards.

“To be honest, we’re disappointed in this decision,” said Dale Gieringer of California NORML. “It really leaves the residents of Sutter County hanging high and dry compared to everybody else in the state.”

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “They clearly have no respect for the taxpayers who will foot the bill for a lawsuit [the county] can’t win.”

“They’re sworn to uphold the state constitution and they turn their backs on it,” Smith said. “It’s like an act of civil disobedience, which has its place — but not among officials running a county government.”

“It would take someone to sue them to show them they have no way not to implement” the ID cards, said Steve King, an Olivehurst man who owned a cooperative in Yuba County last October, only to have the county shut it down within days for “violating zoning codes.”

How California will respond to the opposition from Sutter and Colusa counties is still unclear.

The Department of Public Health could sanction the county, or pass the matter to Attorney General Jerry Brown. Health officials still haven’t decided on their next month, according to public health spokesman Ralph Montano.

One candidate seeking a Sutter County supervisor’s seat was quick to display his ignorance around the subject.

“I was surprised, to say the least, that the board actually had the strength and courage of character to say, ‘No, we don’t want it,'” said Dick Boundy, one of four people challenging Supervisor Larry Munger for his Third District seat. “I assumed it would pass and was very pleased that it did not,” Boundy said.

Medical marijuana users “can get it through hospitals and pharmacies,” Boundy incorrectly said. “They don’t need to go through counties to get it.”

San Diego County finally issued its first medical marijuana identification cards in July 2009, and San Bernardino County followed suit in August, a full six years after being instructed to do so by the state Legislature.

Both counties, along with seven other, predominantly rural, California counties that followed their lead, flat-out refused to implement the program until legally forced to do so.

While other counties got busy implementing state-mandated medical marijuana ID card programs, for three years, these counties did nothing.

Then, in 2006, they mounted a quixotic court challenge to both Prop 215 (which legalized medical marijuana passed by 56 percent of state voters in 1996) and SB 420 (which clarified and expanded Prop 215, directing counties to issue ID cards for medical marijuana patients, passed by the Legislature in 2003).

The counties argued that complying with California’s medical marijuana law would mean violating federal drug laws, which they claimed preempted state laws. Their preemption argument was rejected by every court, at every single step of the legal process.

Sounds expensive, right? Foolish and futile, even? Yeah, actually it is.

Neither county is saying much, though, about the massive legal expenses they undoubtedly incurred over the course of their senseless three-year battle, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — which of, course, they then lost. (The San Diego Board of Supervisors alone spent $5,000 on the case, according to San Diego News Network.)

But you know, talking about how much tax money was wasted by those counties — and, incredibly, is about to be wasted again, by Sutter and Colusa counties — might lead to some actual accountability for the local county government officials who made the decision to waste thousands of dollars in a doomed attempt to avoid being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.

We couldn’t have that, could we?
Editor’s Note: Please follow Steve Elliott on Twitter, and The News Junkie Post to stay updated on all of our articles.


11 Responses to Two California Counties Nix Marijuana ID Cards

  1. Pingback:

    +1 Vote -1 Vote +1=== === popular today

  2. -8 Vote -1 Vote +1Brandon
    April 11, 2010 at 6:11 am

    The man volunteering the broadcast his medical I.D. to the internet is a fool. way to make yourself a target.

    • +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
      April 11, 2010 at 7:02 am

      A target for what?

      Medical marijuana is legal in California, and has been for 14 years.

  3. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Jimbo
    April 11, 2010 at 6:48 am

    I’m waiting for some nitwit to start the call of “County Rights!”

  4. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1a patriot
    April 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

    The state should cut off all expeditures in that county, road work, etc, until they comply with the law.

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1SanityKills
    April 11, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I just hope he realizes that his card has expired!

    {Writing down card number. Okay, that’s Zbluuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr3. Got it!}

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Math
    April 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    It’s unbelievable the extent government officials will go to to actually circumvent the law. And they do it in plain sight

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Donald
    April 12, 2010 at 1:50 am

    The county could just decriminalize medical folks growing a few plants and not have to spend the money – and we all know that the money is the real issue. Would help a small amount to break the drug cartels in Mexico also..and cut costs of law enforcement in the county and jail system. Not chasing medical pot users and 18 year old + users would free them up for real crime stopping – like theft!

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1GanJAH
    April 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    As a resident and grower in Mendocino, I can safely say that I only know one person who actually got the state ID card. One time even, a police officer had pulled him over and at some point the card came out to which the officer was surprised to see, then proceeded to show the other officers saying, “look, he actually got the card!”

    And this is all beside the point.. no dispensary or grower collective will accept the card.. It really means nothing to them. What they want is the actual doctors recommendation, signed, sometimes stamped, and with a photo ID. Anything less, and you’re not coming in.

    • Vote -1 Vote +1Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
      April 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

      Actually, that’s quite variable, GanJAH.

      I personally know of a number of dispensaries/collectives which accept the county-issued patient ID cards, no questions asked.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1Concerned
    April 12, 2010 at 11:27 am

    But if SB420 was considered unconstitutional, doesn’t that mean the county doesn’t have to implement it? why do people want to be on state data bases anyways?

You must be logged in to post a comment Login