If Hesperia Planning Commissioners vote as staff recommends on Thursday, the medical marijuana dispensaries proposal by the West Coast Patients Group could become a distant pipe dream.


But at previous meetings, several of the five-member commission expressed mixed feelings about the issue. They noted that they knew people with serious health conditions who were helped by smoking medicinal marijuana. Only vice-chair Bill Muller's comments appeared to lean against allowing the dispensaries.


"There's much more at stake," Muller said. "We have to look at the community at large."


The group contends that the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and Senate Bill 420 mandate the city allow dispensaries. But, the staff report states, "The laws do not prohibit a jurisdiction from regulating or restricting the establishment of these facilities."


While the proposed ordinance provides safeguards such as limiting the number of dispensaries and their proximity to schools and day care facilities, city staff contend the proposal "does not provide regulations on how to address facilities that have been established illegally. ..."


Although Hesperia has received "a large number of requests" to establish dispensaries, some of the requests have not included complete information, including a lack of business addresses. "Therefore, it is suspected that many more operate from residential properties," according to the report.


Of the 24 incorporated cities and towns within San Bernardino County, four Barstow, Big Bear, Loma Linda and Needles have moratoria on allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Twenty town and city councils have voted to permanently prohibit dispensaries. They include Victorville, Adelanto and Apple Valley, according to the report.


A total of 27 dispensaries are operating illegally in the Victor Valley with 11 in Hesperia, nine in Victorville and six in Apple Valley. Three have popped up in Hesperia since March, the report stated.


Medical marijuana advocates have made emotional pleas at earlier Planning Commission meetings.


"All I want is safe access," Hesperia resident Tim McNamara said in April.


"Now I'm down to one pill a day since I've been on medicinal marijuana," said a man in a wheelchair. "We need this in our town."


Kevin Sutman, a Hesperia resident who has acted as group spokesman, urged commissioners to look at all of the facts before making their decision.


"I just want to make sure you guys keep an open mind," Sutman said.


Vice-chair Bill Muller said he preferred the state authorize medical marijuana dispensation via contentional doctor prescriptions.


Commissioner Julie Jensen spoke about how cancer, whose symptoms can be relieved with marijuana, has affected her family.


Commissioner Paul Russ said he was sympathetic to those with health problems seeking marijuana as a solution.


Chairman Chris Elvert, a sheriff's deputy, said the Sheriff's Department currently is not pursuing out-of-compliance medical marijuana dispensaries.


Commissioner Bill Jensen requested city staff provide additional information.


"This is a real touchy situation, you guys," Jensen said.


The Hesperia Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 14 at City Council Chambers, 9700 Seventh Ave., Hesperia.