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Palm Desert Approves Marijuana Ban

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The Palm Desert City Council voted unanimously Thursday to permanently outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries.

The vote makes Palm Desert the first city in the Coachella Valley to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives, and it means the fate of CannaHelp -- an El Paseo dispensary -- could be in jeopardy.

While state law permits the cultivation, use and sale of marijuana for people with prescriptions from doctors, it is illegal for any purpose under federal law.

The City Council first considered the ban in October 2005, when CannaHelp opened. But medical marijuana patients and advocates urged the council to instead pass a moratorium, which was approved in December 2005 -- with a provision exempting CannaHelp from the ban.

Late Wednesday, Palm Desert City Attorney David Erwin disputed reports that CannaHelp owner Stacy Hochanadel signed an agreement with the city allowing him to keep his dispensary open until mid-September, when his lease on El Paseo expires.

Erwin says that although there has been discussion with Hochanadel and his attorney, there is no signed agreement.

The relationship with the city and Hochanadel has significantly soured. On Dec. 19, CannaHelp was served by the city with a cease-and-desist order stemming from the alleged sale of marijuana to an undercover officer with no prescription for the drug.

Hochanadel had agreed in writing to sell only to patients with proper identification cards issued by the state, according to authorities.

Sales and other financial records were seized at CannaHelp in a Dec. 1 raid by sheriff's deputies. At that time, investigators determined CannaHelp was operating "for profit," which is prohibited under state law, sheriff's investigator Manny Garcia said.

Hochanadel, along with CannaHelp's two managers, James Campbell and John Bednar, surrendered at the Indio Jail on Jan. 8. They each face charges of possession of marijuana for sale, sale and transport of marijuana and keeping a place to sell controlled substances.

A preliminary hearing for the three defendants is scheduled Friday at the Larson Justice Center. A judge is also expected to rule on a motion to quash the search warrant.

When asked how the council might vote on the proposed medical marijuana ban, Mayor Richard Kelly said he didn't want to speculate.

"I don't anticipate anything," he said, "but the city attorney has been working on this issue for some time."

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: KESQ
Contact: KESQ
Copyright: 2007 WorldNow and KESQ
Website: KESQ.com Palm Springs, Coachella Valley
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