CVAG committee hears medical marijuana update

October 15, 2006

K. Kaufmann, Desert Sunj

Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask may oppose medical marijuana dispensaries, but Palm Desert has renewed the business license for CannaHelp, the dispensary that has been on El Paseo for one year. The ongoing dispensary debate rolled into the Public Safety Committee of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments today as Kevin Ruddy, the county’s chief deputy district attorney, answered questions about the white paper Trask released last month.

While state law allows qualified patients to possess and grow marijuana for medical use, Ruddy said, “nowhere in the law does code allow for what is called a dispensary. That’s the bottom line.”

Ruddy said he could not comment on whether CannaHelp, which is run as a patient collective, would be considered legal under the white paper. State law, passed 10 years ago, does allow for collectives and cooperatives to grow medical marijuana.

Any possession, cultivation or sale of marijuana is illegal under federal law. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to ban dispensaries in unincorporated areas like Bermuda Dunes and Sky Valley.

Capt. Steve Thetford, chief of the Palm Desert Police Department, said that CannaHelp has not been “a significant threat to public safety.”

But, he said, the dispensary does have an indirect impact, since officers must occasionally spend time verifying that customers have valid letters of recommendation.

Palm Desert Councilman Robert A. Spiegel, who is also chair of the Public Safety Committee, did not foresee any action by the committee or CVAG either supporting or opposing dispensaries. Ruddy’s presentation was intended as informational only, he said.

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