Palm Springs extends pot moratorium

May 03, 2006

Stefanie Frith, The Desert Sun

A moratorium on medical marijuana facilities will be extended for another 10 months and 15 days, allowing the city more time to craft a zoning ordinance, the City Council voted Wednesday.

The City Council voted 5-0 to extend the moratorium, which also prevents medical marijuana shops from opening.

In March, the Council voted to create a 45-day moratorium after sudden interest from pot shops created concern that the city does not have anything written in its codes about the issue.

"I think they are going to drag it out as long as they can," said Gary Silva of Sky Valley, a medical marijuana user whose home was raided in March. "They have no intentions of making it work."

The extension will allow a city-created committee more time to create an ordinance about pot shops, said City Manager David Ready before the meeting. Although under the law the city is allowed to extend moratoriums from 45 days to 10 months and 15 days, he does not expect it to take that long.

About six people, including Silva, spoke in favor of the moratorium, but said 10 months and 15 days is too long.

"I would like to push for six months," said Ryan Michaels, volunteer with Americans for Safe Access, a grassroots organization that seeks to get people safe access to medicine.

The committee will meet for the first time next week, said Ready.

But Michaels is concerned that the city is not acting fast enough. Next week is already past the time of the first 45-day moratorium.

Councilwoman Ginny Foat, a member of the council subcommittee on medical marijuana facilities, said she realizes the public is concerned about the extension.

"I would say we are going to work as quickly as we can to get those regulations in place," said Foat. "It's not going to be a long process. We will work very hard to make sure it doesn't take 10 months."

Once the draft ordinance has been written by the committee, it will go to the City Council for consideration, said Ready. The city will look at cities like West Hollywood and Berkeley as examples of successful ordinances.

Currently there are two medical marijuana facilities in Palm Springs. The Collective Apothecary of Palm Springs, or CAPS, has operated in downtown Palm Springs behind PS Scoops in the Amado Center for about six months.

And Palm Springs Caregivers opened on Palm Canyon Drive next to Toucan's Tiki Lounge on April 22. Since then, more than 700 clients have signed up, said manager Douglas Johnston Wednesday before the meeting.

There is also also an apothecary in Palm Desert called CannaHelp, on El Paseo.

But when there was interest from a third pot shop wanting to open in Palm Springs, the City Council acted quickly to implement a 45-day moratorium, preventing any new stores from opening.

Palm Springs Caregivers had not opened yet, but was allowed to open under the moratorium because it had already secured a location and had been operating from a place behind Ralphs in Smoketree Village.

"I hope they use us as the guidelines," said Johnston. He said his shop is clean, run like a pharmacy and only sells marijuana, no paraphernalia. His shop requires that clients have California identification and a doctor's note.

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