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Cities Seek Guidance On Marijuana Dispensary Issue

Spliff Twister

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The ongoing debate over the legality of medical marijuana
dispensaries rolled into the Public Safety Committee of the Coachella
Valley Association of Governments on Monday with city representatives
seeking some clarity on the issue.

Coachella Mayor Pro Tem Juan De Lara said cities want a consistent
policy for the valley.

"If we do ban (dispensaries), under what authority? If we're allowing
them, what regulations to ensure strict controls?" De Lara said in an
interview after the meeting.

Kevin Ruddy, Riverside County chief deputy district attorney,
answered questions about a legal opinion opposing dispensaries that
his boss, county District Attorney Grover Trask, issued last month.

Holding that federal prohibitions on marijuana trump state laws
allowing medical use, the opinion was a key factor in the county
Board of Supervisors' vote Oct. 3 to ban dispensaries in
unincorporated areas such as Bermuda Dunes and Sky Valley.

That ban is reverberating with cities considering their own
ordinances, from Palm Springs, which has two dispensaries, to
Coachella, which De Lara said is researching the issue but has yet to
draft a law.

Indian Wells passed a moratorium on dispensaries late last year, and
Mayor Pro Tem Conrad Negron asked Ruddy about the conflict between
federal and state law.

In a phone interview later, Negron said: "I feel these marijuana
dispensaries are nothing but commercializing marijuana. There's a lot
of money involved in this."

Undeterred by the legal limbo, Palm Desert recently renewed the
business license for CannaHelp, a dispensary that has operated on El
Paseo for a year.

Ruddy said whether a dispensary is in an incorporated or
unincorporated town is immaterial. "We're all subject to state law,"
he said. "Nowhere in the law does code allow for what is called a
dispensary. That's the bottom line."

Lanny Swerdlow, president of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project,
a patients advocacy group, called Ruddy's statements inaccurate.

Dispensaries are covered by provisions in state law that allow people
to "administer marijuana to medical marijuana patients," he said.

CannaHelp has enrolled about 1,200 qualified patients in the past
year, owner Stacy Hochanadel said in a phone interview Monday. It is
licensed as a medical supply company, he said.

Palm Desert Councilman Robert A. Spiegel, who is also chairman of the
CVAG Public Safety Committee, said he sees the conflict between state
and federal law as a conundrum.

But he said, "Without a city law, (CannaHelp) will continue like any
other business unless it breaks the law."

Newshawk: Soliff Twister www.420times.com
Pubdate: Wed, 18 Oct 2006
Source: Desert Sun, The (Palm Springs, CA)
Webpage: http://www.thedesertsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061016/UPDATE/310160007
Copyright: 2006 The Desert Sun
Contact: http://www.thedesertsun.com/opinion/lettersubmitter.shtml
Author: K Kaufmann
Website: http://www.thedesertsun.com/
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