Palm Desert council to consider ban on medical marijuana dispensaries

May 21, 2007

K. Kaufmann, The Desert Sun (CA)

Medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives could be banned in Palm Desert come Thursday. But CannaHelp, a dispensary on El Paseo, may still be allowed to stay open for a few months. The Palm Desert City Council is set to vote on a permanent ban on dispensaries and collectives at its meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Civic Center Council Chamber at 73-510 Fred Waring Drive.

If the ban passes, Palm Desert would become the first city in the Coachella Valley to forbid dispensaries or collectives outright. The proposed ban is the same one the council was considering in October 2005, when CannaHelp — then called Hempie’s — opened, and patients and advocates urged the council instead to pass a moratorium.

A moratorium was passed in December 2005, with a provision exempting CannaHelp from the ban. But relations between city and dispensary have been stormy almost from the beginning, with city officials repeatedly trying to close the business.

CannaHelp owner Stacy Hochanadel said regardless of the outcome Thursday, he has negotiated an agreement with the city allowing him to keep the dispensary open until mid-September, when his lease on El Paseo expires.

City officials would not confirm the agreement, but Hochanadel said he’s not planning to close the business, even if the council passes a ban.

"No way," Hochanadel said. "I’d wait till a judge told me to (close). I still might question that too. At this point, I’m playing every last little angle I can."

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