Three medical marijuana dispensaries will be opening soon in Desert Hot Springs after the City Council voted Tuesday night on how many shops and the criteria for processing applications.
In past meetings, the council was divided on whether there should be three to five shops or wait for the application process to determine the maximum amount.
On Tuesday, four of five council members voted according to police Chief Chuck Maynard’s recommendation to start with three shops to see if they taxed the police department’s resources.
“We’re putting a lot of public safety fears out there,” said Mayor Adam Sanchez who stuck with his proposal for five dispensaries. “I don’t think we’ve seen armed robberies taking place in Palm Springs,” Sanchez said. “This is all about health and wellness and creating job opportunities and doing it right.”
Tuesday night’s two-hour meeting was a continuation of last week’s meeting, which was adjourned so council members could draft a resolution from City Attorney Steve Quintanilla that set the points system criteria for prioritizing the applications.
The lengthy list of criteria includes questions about financial and criminal backgrounds; how the business would be organized; the number of patients the shop expects to serve and whether smoking will be allowed inside the dispensary.
Prospective dispensers can also earn points if they are Desert Hot Springs residents and whether they own or owned a business in the city.
Carolyn Hernandez, a Desert Hot Springs resident for more than 25 years, has a collective in Palm Springs and is hoping to open a dispensary in her home city.
“I would like nothing better than to bring a dispensary to Desert Hot Springs and bring my money here,” she said.
The council is expected to set the application fees at its Nov. 4 meeting. Applications for dispensaries will be accepted Nov. 7-21. There is no application deadline for cultivation centers or limit on how many the city will allow.
Council members agreed in September that a points system rather than a lottery is better for prioritizing the order in which applications will be reviewed. The top three will be vetted by city staff and those that meet all the mandates will go to the Planning Commission for conditional use and regulatory permits.
Desert Hot Springs is the third city in the Coachella Valley to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Palm Springs allows four shops and Cathedral City is in the process of vetting permits for its first three dispensaries.
On Tuesday, Desert Hot Springs residents will vote on two marijuana tax measures. Measure II would establish a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana. Measure HH would tax the cultivators $25 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet, and $10 per square foot after that.
The city of Palm Springs has been taxing medical marijuana dispensaries since this past November. Those operating with a city-issued permit pay 10 percent sales tax while those operating illegally must pay 15 percent.
Cathedral City is asking voters to approve a 15 percent sales tax on dispensaries in next week’s election. The city still is in the process of vetting applications for the three dispensaries it is allowing.
A lawsuit filed against the city by the Police Officers Association has been dismissed, Quintanilla announced at the start of the council meeting.
The POA filed a lawsuit claiming that the city committed unfair labor practice when it implemented the emergency cuts of $1.7 million in salaries and benefits to the police department in December. The cuts were part of a budget slashing to help the city, which has declared a fiscal emergency twice in the last year, dig its way out of a $6.7 million deficit.
The court’s action confirms that “the city’s actions did not constitute an unfair labor practice,” Quintanilla said.
The POA has 35 days to appeal, he said.
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