Marijuana will still be dispensed

October 10, 2006

K. Kaufmann, The Desert Sun

It may be a while before Palm Springs passes a law allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, but the city's two dispensaries will continue to operate under a moratorium passed last March.

That was the outcome as more than 30 medical marijuana patients and advocates packed a conference room at Palm Springs City Hall Friday for a meeting of the city's Medical Marijuana Task Force.

The task force's work on a dispensary law is stalled following Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask's recent white paper opinion stating that California's medical marijuana laws do not allow storefront dispensaries.

City Attorney Doug Holland called the current situation a "patchwork."

"As long as the moratorium stays in place, we will not use land use zone (laws) to do anything against the dispensaries," Holland said. "(But) a regulation cannot come forward."

That means the dispensaries aren't officially legal under city law, but will still be allowed to operate.

The moratorium, good till March 2007, bans new dispensaries from opening but grandfathers in the city's two dispensaries, Palm Springs Caregivers in North Palm Springs and the Collective Apothecary of Palm Springs at 333 Palm Canyon Drive.

Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat spoke of a possible compromise law that would ban dispensaries but allow individuals and small groups of patients to grow the drug as collectives or cooperatives. Patients and advocates said that would effectively cut off their access to the drug.

"It would be disastrous," said Elyse Goodwin of Rancho Mirage, who is a legal caregiver for her husband, who uses medical marijuana for Parkinson's disease. "We would have to resort to going on the street. My husband's 80 years old, and I can't imagine going out to hunt for marijuana."

Goodwin and others also challenged the validity of Trask's white paper opinion, pointing to public statements from state Attorney General Bill Lockyer that the law does allow for dispensaries.

But Holland said Lockyer has only issued memos on the issue, not an official legal opinion that would outweigh Trask's white paper.

City officials are also awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge to the state's medical marijuana law being mounted by San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors this week voted to join the suit.

The case is set for a Nov. 16 hearing in San Diego Superior Court.

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