Canna case set for July 24

May 25, 2007

K. Kaufmann, The Desert Sun

The outcome of a criminal case against CannaHelp owner Stacy Hochanadel could hinge on a much-anticipated opinion from the California attorney general on the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Hochanadel and two of the managers at the Palm Desert dispensary, John Bednar and James Campbell, were scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday for the felony charges that the Riverside County district attorney filed against them in January.

The three men face three felony charges each for sale and transport of medical marijuana and operating a dispensary.

But the hearing at Indio Superior Court was continued until July 24 in anticipation of an official opinion on the legality of dispensaries from California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"We understand there is an opinion coming from the attorney general that touches on issues in the case," said Phillip LaRocca, Bednar's attorney. "Once that happens, we'll re-evaluate the motion."

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, requested the opinion from the attorney general to give to Palm Springs officials who are wrestling with the issue of whether to allow dispensaries in the city.

Under federal law, any use of sale of marijuana is illegal, and California law allowing medical use of the drug neither allows nor bans dispensaries. The vagaries of the state law have resulted in a patchwork of county and city regulations, moratoriums and bans on the businesses.

Palm Desert passed a dispensary ban Thursday but is allowing CannaHelp to remain open until Sept. 15.

Deputy Attorney General Marc Nolan said the legal opinion could be issued by July, but cautioned it may have no impact on the case.

"The courts are not obligated to follow our opinions," Nolan said. "There are going to be winners and losers regardless of the decision until the (California Supreme Court) decides.

"I'm afraid we're nearer to the beginning than the end," he said.

 



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