Rancho Mirage OK's Medical Marijuana Delivery

By Blake Herzog | Published in mydesert.com

Rancho Mirage, California

Rancho Mirage City Council agreed today to allow medical marijuana deliveries to residents with a prescription. The plan bans dispensaries in the city, and one has filed a $650,000 lawsuit.

First discussed at the last City Council meeting two weeks ago, it’s believed to be the first proposal of its kind in California.

“I don’t see any other city trying this,” City Attorney Steve Quintanilla said.

With the “Medical Marijuana Compassionate Access Program” the city would allow dispensaries from out of town to deliver to homes in Rancho Mirage once they obtain a city business license.

Patients belonging to a medical marijuana collective that does not provide delivery would be eligible for up to $20 reimbursement for the cost of taking a cab, bus or shuttle to get to any dispensary within a 12-mile radius of the intersection of Bob Hope and Country Club drives.

That covers Palm Springs, the only Coachella Valley city currently allowing dispensaries to legally operate there, as well as the few operating in unincorporated Thousand Palms and as far east as central Indio, city officials said.

It’s unclear how many of Rancho Mirage’s 17,000 residents are qualified patients under state law. “It’s difficult if not impossible to get a reliable estimate on that,” Quintanilla said.

General fund money would be set aside to cover the transportation costs.

Medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives could still distribute the drug among members as long as it’s not done through a storefront dispensary.

The plan’s main architect, Mayor Pro Tem Dana Hobart, said he sees this as a way to let qualified residents obtain the drug while protecting the city from the crime and other negative effects some people and studies link to the dispensaries.

Hobart said he believes dispensaries can have a negative impact on neighborhoods, but “I’m not saying there could or couldn’t be dispensaries without negative secondary impacts.”

The city is relying on a study by the California Police Chiefs Association as evidence of negative secondary effects.

Lanny Swerdlow of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project said there are other studies, at least as valid as the CPCA study, that show dispensaries don’t attract more crime than a typical business.

Beyond that issue, Swerdlow said, “there need to be more dispensaries in Rancho Mirage and other cities to drive down the price of medical marijuana,” which he said is $400 an ounce.

The ban on dispensaries is a zoning ordinance that must be sent to the Planning Commission before the council approves it; the rest was provisionally approved by the council today, but won’t take effect until after a moratorium on dispensary operations is either lifted by the council or expires. The latter won’t happen until Dec. 15.

The moratorium was adopted after one dispensary was briefly open in Rancho Mirage last summer. The lawyer for that dispensary, which has filed a $550,000 claim against the city, did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Blake Herzog can be reached at (760) 778-4757 orblake.herzog@thedesertsun.com.

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