IMPERIAL – Once again, the city of Imperial listened to pros and cons during a special meeting Wednesday whether to allow a medical marijuana dispensary within its jurisdiction, but city officials have not made a move as of yet to go forward with the building of a medical cannabis dispensary in the city.
At Wednesday’s meeting, discussions became heated as both public individuals and members of the city council made their stances known on the subject — so heated, that the conversation was moved to a later date for a decision.
If built, the dispensary will be run by the Le Fleur group, and possibly would be located in the industrial park of Imperial where it could distribute medical cannabis in the form of oils to individuals with doctor-prescribed medical cards, as well as purportedly educate the public on the use of cannabis as a medicine.
Tammie Thomas, representative from Le Fleur, said their store was not a place where people can purchase recreational marijuana. She said Le Fleur is a dispensary for buying a natural medicine to help cancer patients through their pain and improve their way of life, particularly stage-four patients. Thomas claimed the dispensary would benefit the community greatly, by creating a place for patients to shop without having to travel to San Diego or Los Angeles. Thomas also stated there are currently two cannabis-based medicines available, Marinol and Sativek, that have been fast-tracked by the government to benefit people with epilepsy.
“We are asking for the license to distribute this medicine in the most respectable, professional manner to where these patients can come in and get the help they are so desperately needing and are asking for,” said Thomas.
Most patients who do use cannabis for medicinal purposes are currently unable to obtain it here in the Valley, since the closest dispensaries are either in San Diego or Los Angeles, she said, and patients often have to make a long drive in order to get the cannabis.
Thomas also stated that cannabis is the last thing a doctor should recommend to patients. The medicinal form is to be used as oil and not smoked, since anything beneficial would be exhaled before it can help a patient, she said.
Members of the community both for and against the dispensary were present at Thursday night’s meeting to comment on the situation.
Helen Palomino, CEO of the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert, said she has seen the medicine improve the lives of people with cancer. Medical cannabis is said to help with pain and nausea, especially for the benefit of those who are suffering from cancer. Palomino also stated it has been used as a transitional means to get patients off addictions to prescription drugs. Palomino said she has witnessed cannabis users live out the last years of their lives in comfort and without much pain.
“Having a dispensary here would create a controlled manner in which people could access this medicine in the most effective and professional way, so that they don’t feel they are going to a head shop or that they are getting high,” said Palomino. “It’s not about that. It’s about getting a natural medicine to help heal their bodies and help maintain function in their bodies.”
Leticia Iten, a resident of Holtville, said she has a seven-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with bone cancer four years ago and survived, but with radiation after-affects such as slow healing. When her leg was broken and would not heal, and risked amputation, Iten turned to CBD, a chemical in cannabis that is thought to help bone growth. After giving it to her for four weeks, Iten said the leg began to heal. She now gives her daughter cannabis oil everyday to help her heal from the chemotherapy and radiation.
“We talk about children getting a hold of it,” said Iten, “but this medicine saved my daughter’s life. You can’t tell me this is hurting her.”
On the other end of the discussion are the concerns of the Imperial community about what this decision could do to the community. Most expressed concerns over a rise of marijuana- related crime and that, despite what Le Fleur and others claim, the dispensary will not be regulated properly and will put marijuana on the street.
Pastor Dan Bruce of Faith Assembly in Imperial said he believed there would be a rise of crime, citing information from the former chief of police in Washington and his finding in his state and another marijuana legal state – Colorado. Cannabis-related crime rose shortly after the legalization of recreational marijuana as well as when medical dispensaries were opened, Bruce cited. Bruce said he and many others are concerned the same will happen in Imperial.
“I feel that a dispensary has the ability to chip away at our community’s core values and strength,” said Bruce.
Many of the speakers also expressed a desire to not let Le Fleur run the dispensary and instead, have it under city control.
Council member Robert Amparano was among those who stated he did not want the dispensary in Imperial, citing his personal experience with what he saw in Colorado and the rise of homelessness connected to marijuana use.
“I don’t like what I saw, I really don’t,” said Amparano about the amount of homelessness he saw in Colorado. “I don’t want that for the city of Imperial. The impact on our law enforcement will be tremendous.”
“Whatever medicinal benefits there are, let a pharmacist handle it,” said Larry Cowne, an Imperial resident and deacon at Imperial Community Church. “It’s largely a front to hand out marijuana to more people.”
Janet Cowne said she believes there is too much that could happen, saying that though it would generate money for the city, it is not where Imperial’s funds should be coming from.
“Let some other city do that, I don’t want it in our city,” said Cowne. “One thing leads to another and the city has to decide now, but if they say yes, they will have to say yes to everything else.”
“Under no circumstances should we open this store,” said Pauline Shores, echoing Cowne’s statement. “We do not have the finances to accommodate the police department. We cannot even afford a new shade for our water park.”
Council member Derrell Pechtl said he was in favor of the dispensary, stating there should be progress for the city of Imperial in this matter.
“We are not talking about a head shop. We are talking about a medical dispensary that will be dealing primarily in oils and non-hallucinogenic for the most part,” said Pechtl. “We cannot let fear affect our decisions.”
Currently, it is illegal federally to have cannabis, despite the California state law, and all marijuana can be seized by law enforcement, whether the product is packaged as medical or recreational.
The people of Imperial present at the meeting clearly pled for the city to not have the dispensary. If there is such a strong need, let the dispensary be in another city and not have Imperial suffer what can come from it, was the common cry.
If approved, the dispensary would be allowed to open for a year. If it is believed that it does not perform as what was promised to the city, or problems arise, the council can choose to shut it down through the city.
The next meeting to discuss the dispensary will be Monday, July 10 at 5:00 p.m.