Mayor, CannaHelp broker deal on marijuana IDs

May 03, 2006

K. Kaufmann, The Desert Sun

CannaHelp, the medical marijuana dispensary on El Paseo in Palm Desert, is once again open to all customers, not just those with state-issued medical marijuana ID cards.

A phone conference Wednesday between Mayor Jim Ferguson and dispensary owner Stacy Hochanadel resulted in a stay until June 1 on an agreement limiting sales at CannaHelp to customers with the state ID.

"I don't understand the purpose of the card," said Joe Riordan of Cathedral City, who was one of the more the 36 customers the dispensary turned away Monday.

Riordan, who is HIV positive, said he plans to go back to Canna-Help for the medical marijuana he uses to ease weight loss and nausea related to the disease.

And beginning May 11, Riordan and other Coachella Valley medical marijuana users will be able to apply for the state ID in Palm Springs.

County Supervisor Roy Wilson of Palm Desert announced Wednesday that the Riverside County Department of Public Health will begin accepting card applications every other Thursday at the Palm Springs Family Care Center.

The cards are voluntary under California's medical marijuana laws, Proposition 215 passed in 1996 and Senate Bill 420 passed in 2003.

The difficulty of getting to Riverside to apply for the card was a major reason many CannaHelp clients have not gotten the IDs, Hochanadel said.

"I guarantee they're going to have a major increase in the card program," he said.

Sales at CannaHelp plummeted about 75 percent Monday, the first day of the agreement between the city and the dispensary which was signed last month.

Only about 30 of the dispensary's more than 700 clients have the state ID, itself supposed to be optional.

San Francisco is the only other city in the state that requires all dispensary customers to have the card.

Ferguson was optimistic that making it easier for CannaHelp customers to get the state ID will solve the problem.

"I think it was the equitable thing to do," Ferguson said of the stay. "It was not our intent to put him out of business. It's not very fair to require someone to comply with something that isn't up and running yet."

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