CannaHelp owner, managers get hearing date reset

April 05, 2007

, Desert Sun

A preliminary hearing for CannaHelp owner Stacy Hochanadel and managers John Bednar and James Campbell set for today at the Larson Justice Center in Indio was reset for April 20. The three men, all 30, have been charged with three felony counts each related to marijuana possession, sales and transport. They surrendered at the Indio Jail on Jan. 8 after the Riverside County District Attorney's Office issued warrants for their arrest.

On Dec. 19, CannaHelp, a medical marijuana dispensary at 73-350 El Paseo,
was served with a cease-and-desist order by the city of Palm Desert stemming
from the alleged sale of marijuana to an undercover officer who had a doctor's letter of recommendation for the drug, but no state-issued identification card.

Hochanadel had signed an agreement with the city, agreeing to sell medical marijuana only to patients with the ID cards.

Under California state law, medical marijuana is allowed only for patients with a doctor's letter of recommendation, but the drug cannot be sold for profit.

Marijuana sales and records were seized at CannaHelp during a raid by
the Riverside County Sheriff's Department on Dec. 1. At the time, sheriff's
investigators determined that CannaHelp was operating ``for profit,'' said
sheriff's investigator Sgt. Manny Garcia.

Hochanadel's attorney, James Warner, disputed that characterization
after his client's Jan. 9 arraignment at the Larson Justice Center.

``CannaHelp is a nonprofit and there's no proof Stacy is making a profit,'' said Warner. ``The district attorney's office obviously thinks dispensaries are illegal, but Californians don't. They voted for it. This is a political issue.''

Assistant District Attorney Traci Carillo disagreed.

``The issue is that CannaHelp is operating outside the law and making a
profit,'' she alleged.

The three defendants posted bail.

Today's preliminary hearing was intended to help a judge determine if there is enough evidence for the accused to stand trial.

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