California, Riverside

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Will dispensary owner stand trial?

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:18 pm

The Desert Sun wrote:Will dispensary owner stand trial?

<span class=postbigbold>Judge expected to decide Friday if felony charges will stand for 3 men</span>

by Amy Blaisdell, City News Service, Desert Sun
December 6th, 2007

A Riverside County judge will decide on Friday whether three men accused of profiting from a former Palm Desert medical marijuana dispensary will stand trial on felony charges.

Stacy Hochanadel, who owned CannaHelp in Palm Desert, and managers James Campbell and John Bednar, all 31, contend they were running a legal medical marijuana business under Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420.

The men are charged with multiple drug-related felonies, including possession of marijuana for sale and the transportation and sale of marijuana. Authorities also contend the trio profited from the business.

Under California law, marijuana can be sold only on a not-for-profit basis and on the recommendation of a physician.

Marijuana and financial records were seized at CannaHelp, 73-359 El Paseo, in December 2006 during a raid by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Wednesday's testimony came on the last day of a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Eric G. Helgesen, who will decide on Friday if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.

During cross-examination Wednesday by Aimee Larson, Campbell's defense attorney, sheriff's Investigator Robert Garcia testified that the dispensary's employees appeared to be trained and educated in medical marijuana and said that an undercover officer who twice purchased pot on the premises was given help by employees on the types of strains and quantities that would help his back problem.

Garcia agreed with Larson that the dispensary's actions were not indicative of what she called typical "street-level drug dealers."

During questioning, Garcia also agreed with Larson that in his experience, street-level drug dealers never told him they wished to educate themselves on medical marijuana for the benefit of others.

He also agreed that none ever had an agreement with a city like Palm Desert in order to dispense marijuana

Garcia testified that CannaHelp took several steps to ascertain proper medical marijuana patients and conceded that the first attempt by an undercover officer to buy pot in the dispensary failed because employees could not verify his physician's recommendation.

On Tuesday, Garcia testified that Hochanadel was operating a $1.6 million business for profit.

But he admitted under cross examination that there was no way to verify salaries on a weekly basis and that he never investigated the dispensaries' other expenses, like utilities and rent.

Garcia said under cross-examination that the undercover agent who twice purchased marijuana from the dispensary did so with identification and a physician's note but did not have county identification cards.

At the end of Wednesday's hearing, Larson also argued Campbell's Miranda rights were violated and asked the judge to disallow any of his statements given to deputies during the Dec. 1, 2006, raid.
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Judge Postpones Cannahelp Warrant Ruling

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:07 am

KESQ wrote:
Judge Postpones Cannahelp Warrant Ruling

Posted: March 20, 2008 03:35 PM PDT news services

A ruling on whether to quash a search warrant used in the case of a former Palm Desert medical marijuana dispensary operator and his two managers -- all facing trial on drug charges -- was delayed Friday by a judge who said he needed more time to make an "informed decision."

Stacy Hochanadel, the former owner of CannaHelp, and managers James Campbell and John Bednar, all 31, were arrested in December 2006 and charged with felony possession of marijuana for sale, transport and sale of marijuana and keeping a place to sell controlled substances.

The three contend they were running a legal medical marijuana business under Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420. Under California law, marijuana can be sold on a not-for-profit basis to patients with a doctor's prescription, although it is illegal under federal law.

In ordering the three to stand trial, Judge Eric G. Helgesen of Tulare County said last Dec. 7 it appeared the defendants violated the law because the dispensary was profitable, generating well over $1 million in pot sales.

During Friday's hearing, Hochanadel's attorney Ulrich McNulty argued before Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing that the affidavit filed by the Sheriff's Department in support of the search warrant was inadmissible because investigators failed to prove that a criminal act was committed by the three defendants.

He also argued that the sale of medical marijuana is legal under California law.

However, Supervising District Attorney Richard Cookson told the judge that the three defendants had committed a crime and the appellate court had ruled the Compassionate Use Act was not a defense.

He also argued they violated the Compassionate Use Act by selling the marijuana for profit and to patients outside of the county.

Downing said he needed more time to review the case, and scheduled another hearing for April 4.

"I will tell you I have several concerns," the judge said, noting that after reading the preliminary hearing transcript and affidavit in support of the search warrant, he felt the defendants had established in their minds that they were operating a "legitimate business" and not trying to hide anything.

Outside the courtroom, McNulty said if the warrant was quashed the case would likely be dismissed.

"The prosecution would have insufficient evidence to go forward because they would not be able to use what was seized during the search," McNulty said.

He added that Hochanadel always believed he was operating within the "confines of the law" and that the affidavit used in support of the search was severely flawed.

"If they were talking about cocaine or heroin it would be different because it's illegal, but medical marijuana is legal under California law," he said. "They didn't prove in the affidavit that it was a criminal act."

Marijuana and financial records were seized at CannaHelp, 73359 El Paseo, in December 2006 during a raid by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

During last December's preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to order the defendants to stand trial, sheriff's investigator Robert Garcia testified that CannaHelp generated $1.6 million from the sale of marijuana.

He also conceded the defendants never tried to hide their business from law enforcement and that it would be unfair to compare them to street-level drug dealers.

Garcia testified that an undercover officer twice purchased marijuana on the premises for what he said was a back problem.

He also said CannaHelp tried to comply with the law and that the dispensary refused to sell to the first undercover officer who tried to purchase marijuana because employees could not verify his doctor's prescription.

The three defendants have been allowed to remain free on their own recognizance on the condition that they do not obtain marijuana in excess of what the law allows. All three men are medical marijuana cardholders with prescriptions for the drug. They also cannot sell the drug or provide it to patients in a care-giving capacity.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to 16 months to two years in prison, prosecutors said.

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Wider acceptance of medical marijuana has groups worried

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:12 am

The Press-Enterprise wrote:Wider acceptance of medical marijuana has anti-drug groups worried

03:51 PM PST on Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Press-Enterprise

It looks like any other doctor's office, with white walls, a receptionist's window and soothing background music.

But then there's the marijuana cookbook in the corner case, and the "Medical Marijuana Survival Guide" handed out to patients.

The Temecula branch of Alternative Care Clinics opened four months ago, part of a growing network of Inland businesses connecting patients with medical marijuana.

"We used to get a lot more questions," said Jonathan Arbel, ACC's director of operations. "Now it's just more recognized as a legitimate treatment."

"It seems like it's a lot less of a negative thing now," said Tom Wiggins Jr., administrator for Inland Empire Cannabis Consultants of Temecula.

The trend worries a local anti-drug organization.

"Yes, we remain concerned that a pro-drug movement is afoot in the Inland Empire," Roger Anderson, parent coalition chairman of the Inland Valley Drug Free Coalition, wrote in an e-mail.

"The pot users don't really want a 'medicine.' They just want to get high," Anderson wrote.

Medical marijuana is taking root amid new court rulings and policy changes.

Last year, a state appeals court upheld a law setting marijuana guidelines. On Feb. 18, Palm Springs became the first city in Riverside County to change its zoning to allow medical marijuana collectives and co-ops; two will be permitted to operate in an industrial area.

Last summer, state Attorney General Jerry Brown released guidelines for law enforcement in dealing with medical marijuana. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department is overhauling its policy on the matter. San Bernardino County still wants to overturn the state law.

While federal law forbids the use of marijuana for any purpose, activists hope President Barack Obama's election will help their cause. He has pledged to end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

<span class=postbigbold>a shorter drive </span>
<table align=right class=posttable><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=></td></tr></table>
Obtaining medical marijuana used to require a drive to Palm Springs or Los Angeles, said Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse and one of the county's most vocal medical marijuana activists.

Now, at least seven doctors in western Riverside County write marijuana recommendations and dozens of delivery services connect patients with the drug, Swerdlow said.

Formed four years ago, ACC has offices in San Diego, LA, Long Beach and Palm Springs.

The Temecula office fills a market demand, Arbel said.

Located in leased space in a commercial office district, the 700-square-foot clinic is open once a week.

After filing out paperwork, patients discuss their condition with a licensed doctor, who determines whether marijuana can help.

Illnesses from glaucoma to AIDS qualify for marijuana treatment under California law.

If they are approved for treatment, ACC patients get a doctor's recommendation and an ID card.

The card and a 24-hour verification service help patients avoid problems with law enforcement.

The clinic does not have any marijuana on-site, and staff is barred by law from telling patients where to get it.

"If they ask, we tell them to Google it," Arbel said.

California also has a voluntary ID card system for patients. Health departments in 47 counties, including Riverside, issue the cards.

More than 27,000 cards have been issued to date, state figures indicate.

<span class=postbigbold>Setting guidelines </span>

Medical marijuana became legal in California when 56 percent of voters approved Prop. 215 in 1996.

In 2003, state lawmakers passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act, which set up the state ID card system and established rules for patients to cultivate marijuana.

San Bernardino County joined San Diego County in challenging the act, saying it contradicted federal law.

The state 4th District Court of Appeals rejected their argument last August, and the California Supreme Court declined to hear the case in October.

San Bernardino and other counties are taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently asked for briefs, said Lt. Rick Ells of the county Sheriff's Department.

The high court has not decided whether to take the case, he said.

San Bernardino refuses to issue ID cards.

The guidelines released by the attorney general allow marijuana collectives and co-ops to exist so long as they don't operate for profit. The groups must not purchase marijuana from illegal sources and must have detailed records proving users are legitimate patients.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department is updating its medical marijuana policy to keep up with recent changes, said Capt. Mitch Alm of the sheriff's special investigations bureau.

The policy, which has no timetable, will set guidelines for field operations, he said.

Anderson, of the drug-free coalition, hopes the federal government maintains a tough stance on marijuana.

"We don't want our communities looking like Los Angeles or San Francisco where there are more pot shops than Starbucks," he wrote.
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EDITORIAL: Pot defiance leads to lawsuit

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Nov 01, 2009 11:54 pm

The North County Times wrote:EDITORIAL: Pot defiance leads to lawsuit

<span class="postbigbold">Our View: City should stop ignoring voters' will on medical marijuana</span>

The North County Times
The Californian Opinion Staff | Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 12:05 am

Earlier this year, the counties of San Diego and San Bernardino saw their efforts to overrule the will of the people on medical marijuana go up in smoke ---- along with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars ---- when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal of California's laws on the subject.

Now it is Temecula's turn to tilt at prohibitionist windmills.

A year ago, Riverside County sheriff's deputies, serving as Temecula's police force, raided a cooperative run by Martin and Lavonne Victor, seizing 70 marijuana plants the Victors and a dozen other medical-marijuana patients registered with the state were growing for their use. Last week, eight members of that co-op who had not been arrested sued the city and the Sheriff's Department for the return of those plants, which they said were theirs. They also are asking for $1 million each in damages.

Deputies said the Victors couldn't prove the plants were for use solely for members of the cooperative, as required by state law, even though they showed them the state-issued ID cards and other documentation for their fellow co-op members.

Nevertheless, the deputies confiscated the plants and arrested Martin Victor. A hearing scheduled for Monday will determine whether he must stand trial or not, but that issue is largely separate from the lawsuit, because the eight people suing for the return of their plants were not arrested.

Thirteen years after voters in this state said use of marijuana to ease pain and suffering of ill patients should be permitted, two-thirds of the state's counties have taken the necessary steps to make the law work, and the state has not descended into drug-addled debauchery as a result. Yet in this corner of the state authorities continue to butt their heads against the wall.

Authorities have every responsibility to ensure that the state's laws are followed, but too often ---- as in the Temecula case ---- it looks as though they want to keep fighting the will of the people.

And that's a fight that could get very expensive.
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