It's full speed ahead here in California to legalize marijuana. It's been a long-fought battle and it won't be complete anytime soon. While other states have successfully legalized it, there's a major hurdle right here in the Golden State.
There's no regulations on medical marijuana at the state level and local law enforcement said that's making their job harder.
Officers said they're having a tough time even determining whether a medical marijuana user is authorized. Groups wanting to legalize pot said the confusion and vague rules are just more setbacks for patients.
Not having a state-run medical program, like other states, means law enforcement doesn't have a centralized area to check to see if a person can legally smoke medical marijuana.
Because of that, it often takes law enforcement a lot of extra time to a check a patient's status, making it harder for them to crack down on people who could be abusing the system.
"It's frustrating, because it's time consuming and sometimes we don't have the resources," said Officer Yolanda Rocha with the Salinas Police Department.
It's also time consuming because patients in California are not required to get a medical card in order to get the prescription. With no state-level program to keep track of all the patients, it's tough for law enforcement to check whether anyone is authorized to smoke or even possess the drug.
"Sometimes they have a doctor's note and it's hard for us to verify if it's valid, or actually issued by a doctor. If they have a cardm it's easier for us to verify if it's a valid card," Rocha said.
States like Oregon, Colorado and Arizona are progressing faster than California with agencies that administer a uniform card to anyone receiving a prescription for marijuana.
"It would be very helpful if we had a centralized agency at the state level that was responsible for administering cards, and was responsible for ensuring the protections of patients and access to state cannibas for patients," said Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Reiman said it's the one thing that's really missing in the Drug Policy Alliance's progress to legalize marijuana in the state.
For officers in the field, verifying a card means going to the California Public Health Department's website or calling a phone number to check the status of a patient's medical card. But, again, sometimes there is no card.
"We collect all the evidence and if you can't prove you are legally possessing it, then you're risking losing that," Rocha said.
The Drug Policy Alliance is still pushing to legalize marijuana for anyone over 21. At this point the Alliance is not sure if it will run a campaign for 2014, or 2016.
Police encourage medical marijuana users to take the extra step to get a card from the Health Department for easy verification.