Pot dispensary to remain open

YUCCA VALLEY — The Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to put a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and the distribution of medical marijuana at existing businesses in the town. This will grant the Town an initial 45-day review period in which to form zoning and other land-use policy for this kind of business.

A health collective that opened about three months ago in the Monterey Business Center and is dispensing marijuana will be allowed to continue to do so despite the moratorium.

Deputy Town Manager Shane Stueckle said California Alternative Medicinal Solutions would not be forced to close as operators had “conformed to the regulations in place at the time they established their business and obtained their business registration in the Town.”

The business offers Eastern-style medicine, herbal and homeopathic remedies and “medical cannabis.”

Another issue addressed by Stueckle’s staff report was the concern of some citizens that the dispensary was close to the Desert Ballet Centre and Yucca Valley Karate, two businesses that primarily serve children. Stueckle found that under California land-use laws, CAMS has a legal right to operate there.

Speaking to that issue during public comment, CAMS founder D.J. Ross said location was a big concern when choosing a site, and the collective’s board “considered the most extreme conservative view.”

Ross said they picked an industrial business park that was “out of the way, that you cannot just accidentally drive to. You have to deliberately have a reason to go there.”

Lori Green of Yucca Valley challenged the wisdom of permitting the dispensary to operate at its current location. She spoke for Desert Ballet Centre and Yucca Valley Karate, saying its owners have a problem with CAMS being next door.

With a rising voice, Green decried the company’s choice of an out-of-the-way location, which she called “out of the public eye.” She accused the business of keeping itself quiet from the community, so that “half of the community doesn’t know” it’s there.

Speaking as a parent of students who use the facilities, she was concerned about the safety of the children.

While Green was speaking, some audience members were heard booing and making rude comments. Newly elected mayor Frank Luckino had to step in.

“Everybody needs to have respect. If you want to boo, we have the sheriff here who will escort you out,” he told the audience. “If you want to be listened to, you also have to listen.”

Speaking in favor of the collective and its supporters was Joseph Glowitz, Hi-Desert Water District engineer and a member of the National Institute of Health’s Patient Advisory Committee. “There are diseases and impairments to many folks where traditional Western medicine and therapies are not effective,” he remarked.

Glowitz said he hoped the council wouldn’t “play into the fear and demonize folks,” who were looking for alternatives to treat their pain and illnesses.

Glowitz also applauded the council m for their deliberate and thoughtful approach to the zoning issues involved.

When it came time to vote, the council members had no additional comments. Chad Mayes, the new mayor pro tem, moved to approve staff recommendations to declare a moratorium, but chaffed at the possibility left open in the report that the moratorium could be extended more than once.

“Let’s not use a year,” he said, “let’s try to resolve this sooner instead of pushing it off and using excuses to delay.”

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