Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
Dear Mr. Reiter,
Thank you for meeting with me to discuss implementation of the California
Medical Marijuana I.D. Card Program in Shasta County scheduled to begin
June 1, 2005. I appreciate your willingness to solicit my input.
As we discussed my major concern is patient privacy. The federal government’s
lack of recognition of California law is, I would argue, irrelevant,
but does pose a very real threat to legitimate patients and demands
an absolute assurance of privacy. It is not at all certain the system
proposed for Shasta county meets this need.
I would propose that the Shasta County Department of Mental Health
destroy all patient identifying information once the I.D. card is issued,
keeping only the unique patient identifying number and expiration date
for law enforcement verification. This is the process used currently
by the city and county of San Francisco and seems to be working well.
Unfortunately, I do not believe Shasta County is able to keep patient
information out of reach of the Federal government.
I have additional concerns about the law enforcement response to these cards.
If in fact the I.D. card is respected, then it will be valuable indeed; however,
my experience is that law enforcement has been completely unwilling to accept
medicinal cannabis and are likely to use the I.D. card system to identify patients
for harassment and persecution. Police officers and prosecutors have been very
quick, in my experience, to use the power of office to further their own personal
political agenda and to subvert the will of the voters on this issue. In short
they have been utterly untrustworthy.
I have also reviewed the Shasta County Alcohol and Drug Program’s Draft “Position
Statement on Medical Marijuana.” The conditions outlined appear to be intended
to make it virtually impossible for an otherwise lawful cannabis patient to receive
drug or alcohol treatment in Shasta County. The inherent bias in the statement
regarding cannabis —“a known addictive substance”— makes
it impossible to recognize the appropriate use of medicinal cannabis
in this setting.
In addition, I believe the draft position statement to be legally flawed in that
it attempts to alter a statute by administrative fiat. The constitution of California
provides that a statute enacted by the initiative process cannot be changed by
the legislature, the courts or an administrative agency. The law can only be
changed by another initiative. The current proposed policy denies treatment to
lawful patients by demanding they meet criteria not enunciated in the statute.
There is simply no reference in the law to IOM or CMA criteria.
The California Supreme Court addressed the medicinal use of cannabis
in People v. Mower and stated that as long as its criteria are met
cannabis be treated “...as any other prescription drug.” Do
you deny treatment to patients prescribed opiates, anxiolytics or
stimulants when they
are not the drug of abuse? What about patients addicted to legal
substances such as nicotine? Do you make exceptions for them?
In summary, I believe the I.D. program will not be supported by patients because
of privacy concerns and a deep mistrust of law enforcement. I cannot in good
faith recommend that my patients participate in this voluntary program until
these issues are adequately addressed.
As to the Position Statement on Medical Marijuana, I believe it is deeply flawed
and likely illegal. At best it is discriminatory and biased. Perhaps an approach
which recognizes cannabis as a unique harm reduction substitute would be more
appropriate for many patients.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns.
Philip A. Denney, M.D.