San Bernardino County supervisors have yet to commit to providing identification cards to medical marijuana patients despite a U.S. Supreme Court action last month upholding state law.
The Board of Supervisors discussed the May 18 ruling in closed session Tuesday morning but announced no decision.
“There is currently no change in the county’s position or practices on this issue,” spokesman David Wert said. He said the matter would be on next week’s closed-session agenda.
After the meeting, however, two supervisors said the county will soon be in compliance with state laws on issuing medical marijuana identification cards.
Supervisor Josie Gonzales said the board is still working out the details of how to put the program into practice, but said “definitely, we are moving forward.”
Supervisor Paul Biane said the Supreme Court’s decision, which followed three years of litigation, means the county must now move forward “as soon as possible.”
Biane said the county should begin working with the sheriff to develop an ordinance and new rules governing the location of dispensaries.
He said he hopes that county rules could be used as a model for the county’s 24 cities to provide a “level playing field.”
A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said the agency wants to first put in place training and policies for its deputies.
“At our end of things, we’re going in motion to comply,” Lt. Rick Ells said. “I guess you could say we see the writing on the wall.”
Ells said he could not give a timeline for when the rules would be in place but said it would be the “very near future.”
Medical marijuana advocates say they plan to put pressure on the county if it is seen as stalling.
“I think the obvious question is, what is there to decide? The law is unambiguous,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the national Medical Marijuana Policy Project. “It borders on the mind-boggling that they’re still finding this a difficult decision.”
He noted that 40 other counties have procedures in place for issuing identification cards. “There’s not any need to reinvent the wheel here,” Mirken said.
Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse at the THCF Medical Clinic and Patient Center in Riverside, said San Bernardino County’s delay just prolongs the difficulties that patients will face.
“The longer they put off issuing ID cards, the longer the Sheriff’s Department can keep arresting medical marijuana patients,” he said.
By Imran Ghori
Staff writer Duane W. Gang contributed to this report.
Reach Imran Ghori at 951-368-9558 or ighori@PE.com