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Feds raid medical marijuana dispensary

Spliff Twister

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A medical marijuana-laced "tip" left for an employee at Palm Springs' Spa Resort Casino in September ended with a search-and-seizure raid on a Coachella Valley medical marijuana dispensary on Wednesday.
Agents from the Palm Springs Narcotics Task Force, an arm of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, served a search warrant on the Palm Springs Caregivers dispensary at 2001 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

The agents found and seized "a substantial quantity of marijuana and marijuana products," said Sarah Pullen, public information officer for the DEA. "They also seized an amount of U.S. currency."

The raid closed the dispensary and left clients temporarily without a safe source for the drug.

"The dispensary, you can count on it being there. You can't count on people on the street," said Johnny Ortiz of Desert Hot Springs, a client at Palm Springs Caregivers who had previously bought the drug from illegal street dealers.

Toting his doctor's recommendation, Ortiz said he may go to one of the Coachella Valley's other dispensaries - another in Palm Springs and one in Palm Desert - or back to the street.

Under California's medical marijuana laws, first passed in 1996, qualified patients with a doctor's recommendation may legally use the drug. The state law conflicts with a federal ban on any use, cultivation or distribution of marijuana.

Wednesday's search was triggered by an incident in September, when Joshua Aleck of Valencia - who, according to a release from the Palm Springs Police Department, "has a working relationship" with the dispensary - was at the Spa Resort and allegedly left edible items containing marijuana as a "tip" for a hotel employee.

Aleck was at the dispensary at the time of the search and may be an employee, Pullen said. He also might be the brother of the dispensary's owner, she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made, but the investigation was continuing, said Sgt. Mitch Spike of the Palm Springs Police Department, which also took part in the search.
Efforts to contact representatives of Palm Springs Caregivers on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

What's the status?

The raid further clouded the air for medical marijuana users and dispensaries in the Coachella Valley.
Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask last month issued an opinion stating that dispensaries are illegal under both federal and state law.

The county Board of Supervisors followed suit last week when it rejected an ordinance - the result of months of work between county staffers and medical marijuana advocates - to permit dispensaries in unincorporated areas such as Bermuda Dunes and Sky Valley.

The board passed a dispensary ban Tuesday.

Trask was aware of the Palm Springs investigation, said Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for Trask's office.

"We were involved in the search warrant in an advisory capacity," Wyatt said. "We're there to review the language of the search warrant and make sure everything that is going to be searched is a legal search."

Wyatt said she could not comment on whether Trask would file charges in the case until the DEA completes its investigation.

But she said the county would not target individual patients.

"We're not going to go after the suffering cancer patient; we aren't that insensitive," Wyatt said. "We're concerned about these dispensaries that disguise themselves as they're selling marijuana illegally."

Jitters about the raid and county policy temporarily closed down Palm Springs' other dispensary, the Collective Apothecary of Palm Springs and CannaHelp in Palm Desert.

CannaHelp reopened Wednesday afternoon, and owner Stacy Hochanadel said the dispensary was seeing many Palm Springs patients.

"A lot of patients were upset," Hochanadel said. "They're a little scared and hoping that we're going to be here tomorrow."

Calls to CAPS were not returned.

The impact this would have on dispensary ordinances currently under consideration in Palm Springs and Palm Desert is another concern.

The Palm Springs Medical Marijuana Task Force is scheduled to meet Friday to work on a draft law that it put on hold after publication of Trask's opinion.

Task force member Joy Meredith, who is president of Palm Springs' Main Street downtown business association, said neither the raid nor county actions should affect the city.

"It depends on how much courage the decision-makers have," she said.

Newshawk: Spliff Twsiter - www.420Times.com
Source: The Desert Sun
Pubdate: October 5, 2006
Author: K Kaufmann and Marie McCain
Copyright: Copyright © 2006 The Desert Sun
Contact: k.Kaufmann@thedesertsun.com
Website: http://www.thedesertsun.com/
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