Rancho Mirage, CA- Located 100 miles east of Los Angeles in the Palm Springs Valley, Rancho Mirage is a true desert oasis. At only 25 square miles in size (8 square miles of which are forever protected from development), Rancho Mirage boasts nine world-class golf courses, the Betty Ford Clinic and vacation homes for U.S. Presidents, corporate executives and A-List Hollywood celebrities. With such a well-to-do population at its core it’s no surprise then that the average household income in Rancho Mirage is over $105,000 and that the city deals with a poverty level of just 8.5%, far below the overall average for the State of California, which reported 19.1% of the state’s overall population in 2009 as living below the poverty level. Even the four low-income, age-restricted apartment complexes owned and operated by the city look more like luxury condominiums than housing projects.
Great program, wrong place
It was interesting to discover, then, that the City of Rancho Mirage began a 6-month pilot program in 2011 that would provide a $25-per-month stipend to city residents who were members of medical marijuana collectives that did not deliver inside the city limits. Even more interesting, according to the Desert Sun, is the fact that the program expired three years ago because no one had ever submitted a claim for reimbursement.
This lapse in the program that no one knew about (or wanted apparently) was discovered by Mayor Dana Hobart, who recently convinced the City Council to re-institute the stipend. “I gather that, because no one was using the program and there was no one clamoring to continue the program, the City Council was not aware it had expired or they assumed that the program was still going,” City Attorney Steve Quintanilla said in an e-mail to the Sun.
Medical marijuana in Riverside County
In 2010 city leaders saw that most of the surrounding cities were enacting bans on medical marijuana dispensaries and, out of fear of being the only town for miles with dispensaries for people to rob, enacted their own ban. Not necessarily a bad move says Jesse Ruiz, owner of the WEED Collective medical marijuana delivery service in Palm Desert. “I have several patients in Rancho Mirage and they are usually pretty well-off and order larger quantities of medicine than some of the surrounding areas. With dispensary robberies a sad reality, security is very important and marijuana delivery has proven to be very safe compared to a retail storefront.”
The Rancho Mirage City Council approved designating $4,000 a month — or $48,000 a year — for the program, allowing 160 residents to take advantage of the program each month. The program provides for a maximum reimbursement of $25 per month for patients traveling to dispensaries within a 25 mile radius.