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Patients Create Marijuana Collective


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With medical marijuana dispensaries in the Coachella Valley facing ongoing legal challenges, patients in the area have decided to create a collective they say will comply with California state law and provide medical marijuana to those who need it.

"The goal here is safe and affordable," said Palm Desert resident Jon Newland, a board member of the new collective that signed up patients at a meeting last week at the Cathedral City Public Library.

"We want to create a nice relationship between cities and patients and law enforcement."

Newland said the group - called the Desert Co-op for now - will not open a dispensary, although it may seek some kind of office or meeting space in the area.

As of last week, about 30 patients had filled out applications to join the co-op, which is already providing marijuana to some of its new members, Newland said.

"(The collective) is a good source at a reasonable price, and you still get quality," said Desert Hot Springs resident Don Keagle, who has relied on "contacts" for the medical marijuana he uses for gout and depression.

Collective members projected they will charge about $200-$300 per ounce for medical marijuana. The CannaHelp dispensary in Palm Desert charges about $300-$600, owner Stacy Hochanadel said.

The collective has formed as some Coachella Valley cities intensify efforts to close down the few dispensaries in the area.

Six cities - Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, Palm Desert and Palm Springs - have moratoriums on the licensing of dispensaries in force.

Earlier this month, Desert Hot Springs also obtained an injunction against Organic Solutions of the Desert, a dispensary on Palm Drive, forcing owner Jim Camper to close shop permanently.

Palm Desert followed suit April 20, filing a request for an injunction against CannaHelp. The dispensary on El Paseo remains open pending a hearing set for October.

Desert Co-op members hope to sidestep the legality issue by limiting membership to 50 patients and possibly becoming a nonprofit. California's medical marijuana laws prohibit sale of the drug for "excessive profits."

"By not having any profit we're hoping to make (area officials) happy," said patient Lee Scharf of Rancho Mirage. "We're following the law; theoretically you should be helping us get our medicine."

The catch, Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Thetford said, is that while state law allows collectives, it "doesn't define what that means or how that is supposed to take place."

A co-op could still be "a shell for illegal activity," Thetford said.

And marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, said Sarah Pullen, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Typically we focus our resources on large-scale producers and distributors," Pullen said. "That doesn't mean we haven't targeted smaller distributions. The magic number (to avoid prosecution) is still zero."

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Desert Sun (CA)
Author: K Kaufmann
Contact: k.Kaufmann@thedesertsun.com
Copyright: 2007 The Desert Sun
Website: thedesertsun.com | Palm Springs
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