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Palm Springs AIDS Medical Marijuana Patient Group meeting

Daily Dose 2011-06-02 0 comments

By Tamara H. Sone |  Published in My Desert

Lanny Swerdlow speaking at Willow Creek Springs to a group of patients interested in learning more about how cannabis can heal.

Coachella Valley residents who have AIDS may get some relief when it comes to paying for medical marijuana.

Lanny Swerdlow, registered nurse and founder of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, is starting a new support group to collect no-cost and low-cost marijuana for patients who qualify.

“The purpose of this group is to educate AIDS patients about why cannabis is beneficial to them and try to provide them with a realistic quantity of medicine for no cost or low cost,” Swerdlow said Thursday.

Trev Trevino, 52, an AIDS patient and one of the group’s organizers, said he knows firsthand the benefits of medical marijuana and the financial difficulties some patients face in getting the drug.

“Most people are like myself, we live on less than $220 a week,” said Trevino, who’s retired.

“We can barely afford to pay for rent, food and electricity, let alone $200 for a half-ounce of marijuana,” he added.

Chuck Jenkins, who works at the Hazy Colitas dispensary in Thousand Palms, said that at his shop a half-ounce of marijuana sells for about $150.

Swerdlow, who lives in Whitewater, is an advocate for legalizing marijuana and providing patients with what he calls a safe, affordable and consistent option to getting medical marijuana. He recently helped form a similar group in Riverside.

Participants will have to pass a financial “means” test in order to qualify for the program, Swerdlow said.

With more than 40 dispensaries operating in the valley and high desert, the group is looking to the dispensaries to commit to providing regular monthly donations of marijuana to the program, Swerdlow said.

The dispensary debate has been a hot-button issue in valley cities for the past five years.

Palm Desert has been embroiled in a lawsuit against Stacy Hochanadel, who is accused of illegally running a dispensary in the city. He now operates a permitted operation in Palm Springs.

The city of Rancho Mirage allows deliveries of marijuana within city limits, but has not approved opening storefront dispensaries.

Palm Springs is the only city in the valley to issue permits for dispensaries to operate.

Dispensaries have popped up by the dozens in unincorporated areas of Riverside County due to “vaguely written laws” at the state level, according to an October 2010 letter from county counsel Pamela J. Walls to The Desert Sun.

Opponents of medical marijuana dispensaries say they’re concerned the operations will attract more crime while proponents say that more than 12,000 patients rely on dispensaries and delivery services for their medication.