PALM SPRINGS, CA - We're a little more than a month away from the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults here in California. Proposition 64 passed two years ago, since that time it's been a race against the clock to get cities, counties and the state on the same page.
Is the Coachella Valley for all the changes ahead as we clear the way for legal access to cannabis? I-team reporter Karen Devine spoke with a dispensary owner and to members of the Palm Springs City Council.
Robert Van Roo, the co-founder and president of Palm Springs Safe Access, a medicinal marijuana dispensary, is set to expand to adult recreational sales. He's one of six-pot shop owners in the city looking to move into the new realm. Right now, he's waiting on the state to issue some urgency regulations along with a temporary application process allowing he and others to open for adult use.
"I think the United States is ready for adult use. The City of Palm Springs certainly is. The Coachella Valley, in general, has been a leader in being progressive with all their policies," says Van Roo.
According to Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors, the city is ready for it.
"What we would like to do is make sure that we can put in a regulatory framework, decide where the zoning goes, the state's a little behind on their plan but we're trying to get people conditional permits so they an be there the day the state's ready."
When asked what kind of changes Van Roo he's had to make to his medicinal dispensary to accommodate the sale of recreational adult use cannabis he told I-team reporter Karen Devine, "Here at this facility, not a whole lot, our safety measures have already been in place since we opened June 2015, so this facility is generally stamped and ready to go.
Van Roo says the City of Palm Springs continues to think ahead paving the way for adult recreational sales to be a success. He says the recent passing of Measure E, the so called marijuana tax, which allows the City to apply the then existing tax on dispensaries to all marijuana businesses to adjust for statewide legalization, is a blessing.
"If that tax hadn't passed the city wouldn't have the financial means to regulate and keep track of it's new operators. That tax measure going through actually opened up the market in Palm Springs", says Van Roo.
Recreational cannabis will cost the consumer more than medicinal. All pot will be taxed 15% but the state sales tax will go away on medicinal. Van Roo says sensible taxation policy is a concern.
"The whole point of this was to create a regulated market to create public safety and stop out the illicit market. If the taxes become too cumbersome then the illicit market is allowed to survive."
Law enforcement tells Devine the marijuana black market will never cease to exist. But, with legal dispensaries who are following all the rules and regulations, consumers will know exactly what they're getting when it comes to cannabis. Something the City says will keep the industry afloat.
"One of the interesting things is how many businesses want to be in Palm Springs and it's a great way to add another industry to our city in addition to tourism and tourism will be apart of this," according to Councilman Geoff Kors.
Just last night the Palm Springs City Council approved a proposed ordinance amending the city's zoning code to meet the standards for commercial medical and adult-use cannabis.
Van Roo says after January 1, there will be a shift in clientele. "Of course they'll be a little different crowd, I mean we live in a tourist town here in Palm Springs and you know, folks want to have fun and there's going to be 21-year-olds coming in here strictly looking for recreational purposes."
As far as the eight other cities in the Valley and how they are preparing for adult sales of cannabis in January, it varies. Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs have allowed medicinal dispensaries to open and there will be opportunity to sell recreational marijuana.
Palm Desert recently approved new regulation to allow cannabis collectives. Coachella is focused on cultivation. Rancho Mirage does not allow brick and mortar pot shops but does allow delivery of medicinal marijuana to residents from licensed dispensaries.
La Quinta, Indian Wells, and Indio have not approved any marijuana ordinances or allowed dispensaries in their cities.