California City Cultivation: The future of medical marijuana growth in Kern County

Acres and acres of land.

Ten years ago, the land would sell for $5,000 an acre. Now, an acre of land could go for more than $50,000.

“This is one of the sites where the city of California City has issued permits to medical marijuana cultivators to grow cannabis,” Josh Meister, a local real estate agent, said.

 

California City, the third largest city in the state by land mass, is gearing up to be a big player in the medical marijuana cultivation industry.

Toward the end of 2016, California City was the first city in Kern County to permit commercial cultivation.

Now, 3,500 to 4,500 acres has been set aside for cultivators and manufacturers of medical marijuana.

For comparison, Downtown Bakersfield spans around 640 acres.

“The cannabis coming in to the city has helped land values and home values significantly,” Meister said. Meister and his family have been buying and selling land for over 60 years.

“We really see the benefits of the medical marijuana,” City Manager tom Weil said.

A pound of marijuana can retail for $6,000, while a pound of California oranges goes for about $4 a pound.

A measure was passed in June that will put a special tax on marijuana cultivators.

RELATED: Three measures to be voted on in Kern County June 6, two in California City

Business owners will be taxed $7 a square foot for an indoor grow, $5 for a mixed light (sun and artificial) grow, and $1 a square foot for a natural light grow.

This fee will replace the parcel tax that used to supply the town with $7.5 million. The parcel tax did not pass in the most recent election.

74 percent of the population voted in favor of the medical marijuana business tax.

“The total tax revenue after all cultivators and the industry is fully up and operational in the California City area – the tax revenue for the city general fund to help support the police and fire should be roughly between 11 to 15 million dollars a year,” Meister said.

The city has already awarded 30 licenses to cultivators and manufacturers and is going through the interview process with nearly 100 more.

However Weil said the town will only have one dispensary, as laws only allow for one per every 13,000 in the population.

The businesses will be far from residential areas — over a mile from the closest home — but will be required to have a larger impact on he community.

The Chamber of Commerce is requiring each business applying to give back to the community in some way.

A huge change for a city not even considering the idea nearly a year ago.

“Everybody is racing toward a goal right now of the January 1, 2018 to have some type of presence within the community to be able to have the local license,” Weil said.