California's medical marijuana program put on hold

As a direct result of a Supreme Court ruling last month that said the U.S. government could prosecute medical marijuana use, California officials say they will stop issuing identification cards to state residents who smoke marijuana to treat medical conditions.As a direct result of a Supreme Court ruling last month that said the U.S. government could prosecute medical marijuana use, California officials say they will stop issuing identification cards to state residents who smoke marijuana to treat medical conditions.

State Health Director Sandra Shewry says the state program has been suspended, pending a legal review in light of the court's decision, which said Congress may bar the cultivation and use of marijuana.

Shewry said the court's affirmation that possessing marijuana is a federal crime, has caused the health department to be concerned that its Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program "potentially aids and abets individuals in committing a federal crime," and that staff could face prosecution.

She has requested that California Attorney General Bill Lockyer review whether the program violates federal law.

California voters approved a law in 1996 which allows individuals to use marijuana with a doctor's prescription, and a number of other states also have such laws.

Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates allowing patients with debilitating diseases such as cancer and AIDS to use marijuana, says the move is puzzling, as other states have looked at the situation and have concluded there is no need to change anything.

Attorney General Lockyer has also essentially said the same thing in his response to the Supreme Court's decision.

California began its identification card program in May in three counties, and has to date issued 123 cards.

The counties have now been told to stop processing applications until further notice.

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