Nicole Small

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Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMICs) were approved by the County of San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors Aug. 1 in a 3 to 2 vote.

San Luis Obispo is now the 22nd of 58 California counties that have approved MMICs. In 2003, California Senate Bill 420 passed, requiring counties to create a Medical Marijuana Program.

The program must offer an online registry and verification system for MMICs.

The purpose of the card is to create a system to protect patients and reduce the time it takes law enforcement to check the validity of patient use.

Patients will be able travel throughout the state without fear of carrying their medicine on them. Police departments can check verification by calling a toll-free number or completing a computer check.

The county expects to have 600 registered citizens within the next year. Fees will be around $75 to $100 and MMICs are valid for one year.

Members of the community spoke in favor of the card, arguing that this program, even if voluntary, will allow many of them to feel more secure.

“The time is now, not later,” said Charles C. Lynch, a caregiver who distributes the marijuana to patients in the San Luis Obispo County.

Local resident Toni Paradis traveled to Oakland to obtain a card for her son and herself for their own security. Paradis’ son uses medicinal marijuana and by both of them keeping a card on them, there is a less likely chance of confusion with authorities.

Board members Jerry Lenthall and Harry L. Ovitt wanted to wait and hear the California attorney general’s public statement on legality of implementing the MMICs before making a decision.

However, the majority of the board opted to move forward.

“Our County Council opined that the attorney general’s decision could take months to years depending on the current legislation. I saw no benefit in waiting for that opinion when the outcome was likely to result in the issuing of cards anyway,” board member Jim Patterson explained in an e-mail.

Chairperson K.H. “Katcho” Achadjian voted in favor of the plan, because the board had approved the sale of marijuana at dispensaries in the county prior to this decision. Achadjian said that it only made sense to approve the card because it makes it easier on officers and citizens in the community.

Concerning the issue of federal law versus state law, board member Shirley Bianchi defended her decision and said, “When dealing with an issue of federal and state, it’s been in my experience to take the compassionate way out.”

Aaron Smith of Safe Access Now, an advocacy group for the organization of MMIC programs, worked with the county heath department to bring the measure before the board. Smith was not surprised by the board’s decision and is glad the county is moving forward.

“We’re talking about sick and dying people here; the sooner the program is in place, the better,” Smith said.

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