Councilman pushes marijuana alteration

April 09, 2007

K. Kaufmann, Desert Sun (CA)

Palm Desert City Councilman Robert A. Spiegel wants California to revise its medical marijuana law so that the state health department would distribute the drug similar to a new program now in the works in New Mexico.

State-run distribution centers could get the drug to patients who need it, while ending the state's "cottage industry" of medical marijuana dispensaries, Spiegel said Monday at a meeting of the Public Safety Committee of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments.

"I'm asking the (association's) Executive Committee to ask the governor of California (to change the law)," said Spiegel, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for president in 2008, signed a law April 2 making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana. Under the law, the state health department will distribute and possibly grow the drug.

Spiegel's proposal met with a round of objections from other members of the committee.

"This issue is between the state and federal government, and I don't want any part of it," said Mayor Pro Tem Mary Stephens of Desert Hot Springs, one of six desert cities to pass a moratorium on dispensaries.

Acknowledging ongoing frustration with the state-federal conflict on the issue, the committee voted unanimously to draft a letter asking federal lawmakers to resolve the situation.

Federal law bans all use, cultivation or sale of marijuana. California's law, passed in 1996, legalized medical marijuana for patients with a doctor's letter of recommendation, but did not create a distribution system.

Whether the law allows dispensaries is a continuing point of contention between local governments and medical marijuana patients and advocates.

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