There are millions of medical marijuana patients around the country, and as medical marijuana programs expand in the states that allow it, there will be continue to be more and more everyday. Many of these patients don't care if people know about their decision to use cannabis to help their condition(s). However, there are many others that feel that it is a matter that shouldn't be made public knowledge. After all, it is medical information, which many consider to be a private matter.
I get e-mails all the time from people asking if law enforcement can access their information. These people don't have anything to hide in regards to criminal activity, but due to certain stigma's surrounding medical marijuana, they don't want people to know. Employment discrimination and housing discrimination because of medical marijuana are real things, and medical marijuana patients understandably try to avoid it. When I was a medical marijuana patient, I definitely didn't want my landlord to know or my boss to know, for fear of poor treatment. I wish it wasn't so, but sometimes you can't protect people from their ridiculous beliefs.
To answer the question posed in the title of this article, yes, law enforcement can and does access medical marijuana patients/growers/caretakers information. Just this last week federal agents forced the Oregon Health Authority to hand over almost two dozen people's information. I was lucky enough to get a hold of the warrant, which was kind of scary to read. At the end of the day, the agencies that house state medical marijuana programs get a lot of funding from the federal government, so they will bend over at the drop of a hat.
I have heard of similar stories out of other medical marijuana states. In the case of Oregon, even Oregon State Police access the database of medical marijuana patients to verify information. Law enforcement knows that it sends a chilling effect to potential medical marijuana patients. I personally know many people that would like to become medical marijuana patients, but they don't want to chance having their information and/or name out there. It's a truly sad thing.
This is why we can never stop fighting for full legalization. Law enforcement will no doubt still try to harass people, but it won't have the same effect. Members of the public that are not familiar with medical marijuana see law enforcement as going after people that are abusing the system, and whether it's true or not, they are sympathetic. That same sympathy won't be there for law enforcement if they try to subpoena customer records for frequenting legal retail outlets - which may or may not even keep records of customers. Support legalization in your state, and if you are in Oregon, support HB 3371 and tell your legislators to do so too!