Cannabis Culture

Code Blue! California’s medical hashish ID card system has collapsed

David DownsNovember 11, 2019

california medical marijuana cards

Sufferers should purchase virtually $three,000 of hashish per yr to interrupt even on the price of an ID card, a Leafly evaluation finds.
(FilippoBacci/iStock)

Nearly not one of the estimated tons of of hundreds of California sufferers entitled to buy tax-free hashish are getting these financial savings—as a result of the state’s medical marijuana ID card system has collapsed, new information from the California Division of Public Well being reveals.

In a state of 40 million individuals, simply four,551 sufferers had the official medical marijuana ID card, in keeping with CDPH totals for the fiscal yr 2018-2019, which ended June 30.

Grownup-use legalization—with its 600 shops and supply providers, plus the authorized proper to develop at residence—has made the cardboard partially out of date for adults 21 and over. These looking for the official ID card say that it’s expensive and time-consuming to acquire and infrequently not well worth the trouble. One of many nation’s oldest medical hashish card applications would possibly have to be retooled or scrapped.

california medical marijuana cards

Energetic state ID card totals are down 65% from their 2010 peak. (Leafly, California Division of Public Well being)

“Is this system serving the individuals it ought to? No,” stated Debby Goldsberry, operator of the Magnolia Wellness dispensary in Oakland, and an ID cardholder. “The price is just too excessive. Individuals don’t purchase that quantity of hashish, and there’s no worth to them.”

“It’s tousled,” stated Michele Aldrich, a longtime San Francisco medical hashish activist and ID cardholder.

System antiquated, distrusted

California’s medical marijuana ID card system is America’s oldest, one in every of its least restrictive, and arguably one in every of its least useful.

The world’s first medical marijuana regulation, California’s Proposition 215, handed in 1996. But it surely didn’t truly legalize medical marijuana. It provided a clumsy medical protection in courtroom for these with a health care provider’s observe.

By 2004, cops had grown bored with making an attempt to confirm increasingly physician’s suggestions throughout police stops. So the California Legislature handed Senate Invoice 420, which created an ID card system and gave cops a state quantity to name to confirm sufferers. Cardholders couldn’t be stopped solely for possessing a permissible quantity of hashish.

“It does supply just a little extra safety” than Prop. 215 provided by itself, stated Ellen Komp, co-director of California NORML.

However the card system by no means actually caught on. Sufferers didn’t should get the cardboard—it’s voluntary for many who need further legitimacy. Against this, later medical hashish states mandated ID playing cards. “As a result of it was voluntary,” Komp stated, “it was arrange for failure.”

Additionally, there’s the privateness challenge. Telling the state that you just use a federally unlawful Schedule 1 managed substance turns off lots of people, stated Komp. “Sufferers say, ‘Why ought to I’ve to register with the county like some intercourse offender?’”

The Prop 64 tax break failure

California’s medical ID program peaked at 12,659 playing cards in circulation within the fiscal yr ending 2010.

The state’s 2016 adult-use measure, Proposition 64, granted state medical ID cardholders an exemption from state and native gross sales taxes, which run 7.25% to 10.25%. Different medicines aren’t taxed, both.

Medical ID cardholders may receive their medication in different states which have so-called “reciprocity” rights.

Holding a card can ease interactions with regulation enforcement. Medical marijuana sufferers can possess greater than the state’s adult-use restrict of 1 ounce in public, and 6 crops in your property.

“It’s a brighter white line,” stated Komp.

California did $1.91 billion in hashish gross sales in its first adult-use yr, 2018, but virtually nobody took the medical gross sales tax break. Why?

As a result of getting a medical marijuana ID card in California sucks. “It’s absurd,” stated Aldrich.

Getting a card is a part-time job

Right here’s what a affected person will let you know: First it’s important to discover a health care provider who will write you a observe, and there are fewer of them now underneath adult-use legalization. Make an appointment. Go to the physician’s workplace and pay about $150 for the session, perhaps extra.

Then learn how to make an appointment along with your county well being division, and schedule that weeks upfront, schlep to some county well being workplace, convey the precise paperwork, and pay as much as $100. The county has 30 days to confirm the appliance, then 30 days for the state to make the cardboard, then you definately might need to return again to the county well being workplace to choose up the cardboard.

Yay! Now it can save you a median of eight.37% gross sales taxes in your hashish purchases. So go on the market and buy not less than $2,986 value of hashish merchandise, at which level you’ve saved sufficient in gross sales taxes to have paid for the physician’s go to and card ($250).

“It prices an infinite amount of cash to get a card,” stated Goldsberry.

Oh, additionally: After one yr, the cardboard expires and it’s important to repeat the whole course of.

No teleconferencing allowed

Every of California’s 58 counties administers the state ID card system on an area degree. So in Goldsberry’s Alameda County, waits are three weeks simply to get a card appointment. Alameda County issued 467 playing cards final fiscal yr, perhaps two per enterprise day.

In San Francisco, the birthplace of hashish compassion, waits are two weeks to get a county well being appointment. You need to present up in particular person, even when it requires an ambulance to convey you, Aldrich stated.

Aldrich discovered that the onerous manner earlier this yr when her husband, Michael, went to resume the cardboard of a bed-ridden lady for whom he has been a caregiver for the previous six years. The girl, in her 60s, has intractable and debilitating power ache from hip and knee accidents. San Francisco County Well being desires her down on the well being workplace to resume her ID card, stated Aldrich. In contrast to final yr, an image of the affected person, or a seek the advice of through teleconference, received’t do.

An aimless authorities program

What’s the whole addressable market of individuals in California who qualify for medical hashish?

It might be 915,845 sufferers, if California’s system labored in addition to Arizona’s, or 1.2 million if it labored in addition to Maine’s ID card system.

As an alternative, nobody is aware of. The California Division of Public Well being informed Leafly it has no quotas for program success. Neither do the counties.

“There isn’t a goal purpose for issuing a lot of [cards],” a workers member on the Los Angeles County Division of Public Well being informed Leafly in an emailed assertion. LA County has issued 138 medical marijuana ID playing cards to date this fiscal yr, for a inhabitants of 10.1 million individuals.

“It’s possible that the numbers of MMICs issued have decreased as different choices at the moment are out there for authorized buy,” the LAPDH workers member wrote.

LA County, which encompasses four,751 sq. miles, has seven Public Well being places of work the place sufferers can arrange appointments. The county doesn’t maintain information on wait instances for an appointment, however “this system just isn’t conscious of lengthy waits for the candidates to get an appointment with our division.”

Sufferers turning to a poisonous, illicit market

LA County, Tulare County, and Kings County every have recorded one dying and dozens of diseases attributable to vaping illicit market THC vaporizer cartridges. Victims report purchasing within the black market as a result of they can not afford the excessive value of examined merchandise.

Tulare County Public Well being Division Supervisor Cecilia Herrera informed Leafly the county’s medical ID card system is successful as a result of it follows relevant state legal guidelines. Getting a card can take as much as six weeks and $100 in charges, plus the physician’s go to value. Tulare has issued a complete of 4 ID playing cards this fiscal yr.

“The lower in numbers of MMJ ID Cardholders is probably going as a result of latest modifications in legalization. … The Tulare County lower is according to the state pattern,” Herrera stated.

Kings County Assistant Director of Public Well being Nancy Gerking additionally considers her county’s program successful. Getting a card there can take as little as about two weeks, and two visits to the county well being workplace. The agricultural county has 4 energetic medical marijuana playing cards, for 151,000 individuals. “We’re proud to say we imagine our program at Kings County to achieve success,” Gerking stated. “That’s largely as a result of reality our turnaround time may be very brief.”

Kings County is down from a 2015 peak of eight playing cards. Gerking couldn’t say why, although she had a principle: “Because the legalization of leisure marijuana the playing cards could have develop into much less fascinating.”

Ought to we shut it down?

Given how few individuals get ID playing cards and the way a lot it most likely prices taxpayers, ought to we simply shut this system down and provides the gross sales tax break to anybody with a health care provider’s observe? It’s robust to say.

“I wouldn’t have an issue with that,” stated NORML’s Ellen Komp.

“It doesn’t have that a lot utility,” stated LA. lawyer Alison Margolin. “And I assist medical marijuana.”

The largest loss could be to medical hashish vacationers. “I would like my reciprocity,” stated Oakland affected person Debby Goldsberry.

As an alternative, Goldsberry advisable reducing county software charges to $20 or $30, plus a statewide instructional marketing campaign about the benefits of the ID card.

Many former medical sufferers store in adult-use shops. That provides as much as a probable overpayment within the tens of hundreds of thousands of tax statewide. “I’m nonetheless seeing sufferers” at Magnolia Wellness, stated Goldsberry. “They simply don’t get their card anymore. They don’t perceive the worth.”

Finally, medical hashish preceded adult-use legalization, and that paradigm is just too helpful to lose, she stated.

“Hashish can be utilized as a focused medication to assist all kinds of situations,” Goldsberry stated, “and we’ve simply began wanting on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the plant can do and the way it might help individuals. This isn’t the time to take the market away from serving to individuals have these transformative experiences. We have to convey the main focus again to hashish as a plant that helps individuals.”

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