The City Council approved a plan that will allow sick people who use marijuana to obtain identification cards to protect them from possible arrest.

Council members approved the measure 7-2 on Tuesday. Cardholders can carry up to one ounce of marijuana under the plan, which was conceived by a citizens Medical Cannabis Task Force. The program also will include a 24-hour hotline that police can call to verify the cardholders' identification.

"This is a very modest response to an immediate and real need," Councilwoman Toni Akins said.

Marijuana is illegal in California but voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996 that allows the medical use of the drug after users receive their doctor's permission. The city-issued cards will not protect users from arrest by federal authorities and cannot be used in other cities.

Some people who smoke marijuana for medical use have complained they have been arrested by police and accused of abusing their privilege. Medical marijuana patient Susan McNichols said she was detained and taken away in handcuffs from her car last summer. She was eventually released.

"This was a very painful and humiliating experience," she said.

It will take city leaders about six months before the program can begin. They must first raise between $20,000 and $30,000 to pay for the program and find an agency to manage it.