By Joaquin Antique / The OB Rag
January was a month of medical marijuana madness for me and many others. I made my first purchase of recreational cannabis on January 4, just a few days after it became legal in our fine state. It was a glorious day.
I had been waiting for legalization for 50 years and it finally came! Although I’ve had a physician’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for several years, it was cool to experience being a recreational buyer even if it limited some of my choices of cannabis products and was a little more expensive than what a medical patient pays. I wrote about my first dispensary visit under the new laws a few weeks ago in the OB Rag.
I mentioned in the article that the new laws have revised some of the previous regulations. One change is the establishment of official State of California ID Cards for patients who have a physician’s recommendation for using cannabis. California counties are required to set up a process for distributing the cards to patients. Possession of one of these ID cards allows a San Diego patient to avoid the City sales tax (5.5 percent) on cannabis purchases. The patient will still have to pay the State Excise Tax of 15 percent.
The card has the patient’s picture and an ID number but no name, apparently out of privacy concerns. It also directs people to a ca.gov web page where law enforcement agencies can confirm that the bearer is a participant in the medical marijuana program and free to possess and use cannabis under state law.
I wanted one of those cards.
I do a fair amount of travel and sometimes bring my medical cannabis with me. Though Law Enforcement agencies in other states, countries, or the federal government are under no obligation to honor California law, it’s my hope that the official card might influence an officer to take it easy on me since my local government recognizes I have a medical need. It couldn’t hurt. And there’s the 5.5 percent savings.
So, I called them up, made an appointment, and in the middle of January I went down to the County Health and Human Services Department on Rosecrans Street. An efficient and friendly County worker assisted me as I paid my hundred bucks, submitted my documentation, and got my picture taken. A couple weeks later I received a call to come back and pick up my shiny new card!
The Marijuana ID card is more expensive than any other documentation you purchase from the County. The $100 price is more than double the cost of a birth or death certificate and way more than a state-issued driver’s license. Medical marijuana patients who are part of the MediCal program pay only $50 for the Marijuana ID cards.
When you check in at the County building, they screen you at the entrance. As I approached the receptionist, he was in conversation with a County Sheriff. I was a little uptight (old habits die hard) so when the receptionist asked ‘How can I help you?” I told him, “I’m here to pick up an ID card.”
He looked at me and said, “What kind of ID card?”
I replied sheepishly, “Er, uh, a medical marijuana ID card.”
With a smile, he had me sign in and matter-of-factly directed me to the Vital Records office. I suddenly realized that I didn’t need to be worried in front of the Sheriff. Even if he doesn’t like it, it’s now his duty to make sure that no one tries to deprive me of my right to use cannabis! I broke out in a shit-eating grin as I thanked the receptionist and headed off to collect my card. I made eye contact with the officer and tried to figure out his expression. Was he frowning or just trying to restrain a smile?
In a case of cosmically synchronistic irony, as I waited for my turn at the Vital Records desk, a report came on the waiting room TV which was tuned to a local news station. It was about opioid addiction in San Diego and stated that opioid deaths were about 250 for 2017. I flashed on the fact that in the 35 years I worked in hospitals, I never saw a single admission, much less a death, caused by marijuana consumption.