OAKLAND - The Alameda County Board of Supervisors this afternoon unanimously approved a fee decrease for medical marijuana identification cards in the county.

In late February, the board approved a $129 fee increase for the cards after the state Department of Health Services hiked its portion of the medical marijuana identification card fee to $142. The state department said the increase -- which took the card's total cost to $179 -- was necessary so the card program can be fully fee-supported, as required by state law.

However, the following day the state Department of Health retracted the increase, and said its new fee would be $66.

The new fee approved Tuesday brings the total cost of the card to $103, $76 less than originally set. The new fee goes into effect April 1.

Of the fee's remaining $37 that does not go to the state, $27 goes to the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, which produces the cards, and $10 goes to the county's public health department.

Last summer, the board approved a $50 medical marijuana card fee, when the state Department of Health Services was taking $13 from the fee.

The identification cards address one of the shortfalls in the Compassionate Use Act. The act made medical marijuana use legal, but it put no system into place to identify patients who may use the drug legally.

Although the cards are not mandatory, they might be useful to people who fear legal hassles from police or who are worried about entering a dispensary to buy medical marijuana. Patients now need only proof that they are a resident of the state and a doctor's note prescribing use of marijuana.

Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Knight Ridder