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SAN FRANCISCO, July 8 - Concerned that state workers might be charged with abetting federal crimes, California health officials announced Friday that they would no longer issue identification cards to medical marijuana patients.
Sandra Shewry, the state health director, said the decision came in response to a United States Supreme Court ruling last month. In a 6-to-3 vote, the court upheld the power of the federal authorities to prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, even in states like California that allow such use under state law.
"I am concerned about unintended potential consequences of issuing medical marijuana ID cards that could affect medical marijuana users, their families and staff of the California Department of Health Services," Ms. Shewry said in a statement.
The cards were intended to make it easier for patients to obtain medical marijuana after getting a doctor's recommendation, but they are voluntary under the state's medical marijuana law. Some cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz, provide cards of their own, but the state program, created by legislation in 2003, was meant to replace them. The city programs are not affected by Friday's announcement.
The state identification card program, which was launched on a pilot basis in May, includes three rural counties in Northern California, where 123 cards have been issued. The program had been scheduled to expand statewide in August. The Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports the use of medical marijuana, estimates there are 100,000 people in California who use the drug for medicinal purposes.
Ms. Shewry said the program could be reinstated on the advice of the state attorney general, Bill Lockyer, who has been asked to issue a legal opinion on the matter. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lockyer, Teresa Schilling, said lawyers could issue the opinion as early as next week.
The state's largest identification card program for medical marijuana patients is run by the county health department in San Francisco, which issues about 4,000 cards a year. A spokeswoman, Eileen Shields, said the program would continue.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney's office, said, "It's our opinion that our program does not violate federal law."
-------------------- Republican Values:
1) You can't get married to your spouse who is the same sex as you.
2) You can't have an abortion no matter how much you don't want a child.
3) You can't have a certain plant in your possession or you'll get locked up with a rapist and a murderer.