Sacramento, CA: California will adopt a voluntary identification card system for medicinal marijuana users under legislation signed this week by outgoing governor Gray Davis.
The legislation, Senate Bill 420, mandates the California Department of State Health Services to establish and maintain the new program, which will allow law enforcement the ability to readily verify whether a patient is registered by the state to possess and use pot medicinally. However, patients who do not possess an ID card will still be shielded from state criminal prosecution, according to the new law – which takes effect on January 1, 2004.
The legislation also imposes statewide guidelines outlining how much medicinal marijuana patients may grow and possess. Under the guidelines, qualified patients and/or their primary caregivers may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and/or six mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. However, S.B. 420 allows patients to possess larger amounts of marijuana when such quantities are recommended by a physician. The legislation also allows counties and municipalities to approve and/or maintain local ordinances permitting patients to possess larger quantities of medicinal pot than allowed under the new state guidelines.
The new law also grants implied legal protection to the state’s medicinal marijuana dispensaries, stating, “Qualified patients, persons with valid identification cards, and the designated primary caregivers of qualified patients … who associate within the state of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions.”
Additional provisions of S.B. 420 allow prison inmates to apply for medical marijuana ID cards (though they may or may not be allowed to use the drug while incarcerated), and permits the use of physician-recommended marijuana for some defendants on probation.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.