Palm Desert CannaHelp gets raided

December 01, 2006

K Kaufmann, Desert Sun (CA)

Agents from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department on Friday raided CannaHelp, a medical marijuana dispensary in Palm Desert, as part of an investigation into whether the dispensary is selling pot for profit.

Agents from the county's Special Investigation Unit, Major Narcotics Division served a warrant at the dispensary, at 73-350 El Paseo, around 10 a.m., closing the business for the day.

Owner Stacy Hochanadel, 30, was also picked up for questioning at his parents' Palm Springs home - his father is Larry Hochanadel, a member of the Palm Springs Planning Commission - and agents searched both his and his parents' homes.

No arrests were made, but agents at the dispensary seized "a substantial quantity of prepackaged marijuana, records of marijuana sales, computers and documents," according to a release.

Larry, a regular CannaHelp customer who asked that his last name not be used, said he would be going without the medical marijuana he uses to ease nausea related to his liver cancer.

"They're cutting us short here," said Ryan Michaels of Sky Valley, a medical marijuana user and advocate who was outside the dispensary Friday. "We had 10 to 20 people looking for safe access."

Hochanadel said he will be open for business today.

California's medical marijuana laws allow patients with a doctor's recommendation to use and grow limited amounts of medical marijuana but specifically prohibits dispensing or selling the drug for profit.

Federal law bans all use, cultivation and sale of marijuana for any use.

 Allegations of selling medical marijuana for profit were also behind two recent raids at Palm Springs Caregivers, a dispensary on Palm Canyon Way in Palm Springs. The dispensary closed after the second raid, on Nov. 2, and has yet to reopen.

CannaHelp, which has had a business license from Palm Desert since it opened in October 2005, runs as a collective, Hochanadel said. Any profits after overhead - which includes livable salaries for himself and his employees - go back into the business to help keep prices low for patients.

"I'm trying to keep my kids fed and going to school and living in a house," said Hochanadel, the father of three and himself a medical marijuana user.

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