Yucca Valley marijuana dispensary must close

Council denies request for extension

YUCCA VALLEY — The Morongo Basin’s last and only licensed marijuana dispensary will close its doors next month, after a split vote from the Yucca Valley Town Council.

Council members voted 3-2 Tuesday, with Mayor Pro Tem Robert Lombardo and Councilman Bob Leone opposed, not to extend a relocation agreement for California Alternative Medicinal Solutions.

The council also voted unanimously to prohibit mobile dispensaries.

CAMS, the Basin’s first and only permitted marijuana dispensary, was granted permission to continue operating in 2010, with the caveat that the dispensary relocate away from the children’s dance studio it once neighbored.

The dispensary moved to a building on Wamego Trail, where it currently operates.

One of the proposals considered by the council was to grant an extension for the dispensary, but charge the medical co-op an annual fee to offset the cost of extra law enforcement.

Capt. Rich Boswell of the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station said his department hasn’t responded to any complaints or calls to the dispensary in the last three years and doesn’t actively monitor the site.

Despite public testimony urging the council not to limit access to medical marijuana, caution prevailed.

Councilwoman Dawn Rowe reminded her fellow councilmen that Yucca Valley has an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries.

“By allowing them to continue, we are breaking our own laws,” Rowe said. She said dispensaries aren’t regulated by the state and allowing CAMS to continue would be permitting a monopoly, since no other dispensaries exist in the Basin or the rest of the county.

“It’s allowed to operate at its own leisure, without any real oversight,” Rowe said.

Leone and Lombardo said they would consider extending the agreement to allow the co-op to operate for another one to two years, despite their concerns over distribution of marijuana to minors.

Council members reminded the public that patients can legally grow their own marijuana for medical use, designate a caretaker to grow it for them or travel to a dispensary in Palm Springs.

“A lot of my patients don’t even have the opportunity to go down the hill,” Brian Nicholson, managing director of CAMS, told the council. Nicholson assured the council that he complied with all state laws, did not distribute his products via delivery service and collected payment from his clients in the form of suggested donations.

“It’s a controlled, safe space that we offer,” Nicholson said.

Annette Bourgeau of Yucca Valley shared her experiences as a caregiver to elderly patients with medical conditions. Bourgeau said her 88-year-old father and 77-year-old mother-in-law have both benefited from using edible cannabis products in lieu of addicting prescription pills.

“There are many functioning members of this community who do use it responsibly,” she said. “This seems to me like something that is highly regulated, more so than the prescription drug industry.”

With the council’s vote Tuesday, CAMS will have to shut down its operation by Dec. 6.