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Struggling Desert Town Considers Taxing Pot To Pay For Police

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Desert Hot Springs (Photo by jorizaga via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Desert Hot Springs city leaders banned pot dispensaries from city limits after one tried to open up shop in 2007, but now that the town has hit the skids officials are having second thoughts. Desert Hot Springs is facing both money troubles and a high crime rate, so it's considering lifting the ban in the hopes that taxes paid by medical marijuana dispensaries could pay for its local police force.

City officials will be deciding by August if they'll be adding the measure on the November ballot for its voters, according to USA Today. In addition to legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries, they could charge a 10 percent sales tax, a $50,000 permitting fee or a 5 percent cultivation tax; they could also combine the three ideas together.

Desert Hot Springs, which has a population of 28,000 and is located a little over 10 miles north of Palm Springs, filed for bankruptcy in 2011. It's been struggling to pay its police department, which takes up about 40 percent of the city's budget. The city's crime rate is twice the national average. Even though the town could hire the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to police Desert Hot Springs, city officials would rather let the dispensaries back in so they can keep their local force.

While some residents are concerned this would only worsen the town's drug issues, others feel that legalizing pot shops in the area would help ensure there's safer weed. The stuff on the streets can end up being laced with other products or drugs.

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"It's a budgetary thing for the city, but, more importantly, this will stop a lot of people getting 'street pot' from vendors," said Thomas Miller, the owner of the 420 Express Delivery service, who delivers marijuana out to patients in Desert Hot Springs.