The Kern County Planning Department has proposed a project that would allow over 200 acres of unincorporated land in the county to be set aside for the marijuana industry.
The project would allow for two million square feet of indoor cultivation (approximately 46 acres), 150 acres for outdoor cultivation, 500 thousand square feet of processing, packaging, and distribution (approximately 11.5 acres), and 40 retail cannabis stores within the county.
“Either ban everything or regulate everything," Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said.
However, if the Board of Supervisors decides to ban marijuana cultivation in October, the county would initiate a task force to reduce crime and make sure no one breaks any rules.
A 1,109 page environmental impact document released by the Planning Department details the potential impact the manufacturing and cultivation could have on different environmental aspects of Kern County as well.
Indoor and outdoor cultivation would be required to be half a mile from any school, day care center, youth center while children are present, or incorporated city limit boundary, according to the report.
There would also be a countywide maximum of three processing and distribution facilities in unincorporated areas of the county with the required state licenses.
A countywide maximum of 40 retail cannabis stores with or without mobile delivery would be allowed within unincorporated portions of Kern County with the required state licenses. They would have to be half a mile or more from a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present. This includes county islands within the City of Bakersfield. Only 1,000 feet is specified in Proposition 64, the Marijuana Legalization Act.
The county would allow for the personal cultivation and use of cannabis and cannabis products as outlined in Proposition 64. The county would not allow the use of cannabis and cannabis products in parks, recreation areas, public areas, or areas where tobacco use is not allowed, similar to Proposition 64.
Crime, however, is not a main concern. The new regulations could potentially even reduce criminal activity.
“There is a study that shows that dispensaries actually don’t increase crime in places, they decrease crime if they are legally operated," Oviatt said.
“I think what we need to do is regulate this industry – it’ll help keep kids away from it, it’ll help give us more tax revenue for the city, and at the same time it’ll help more businesses open up," Will Dennis, owner of Growers Warehouse Hydroponics Supply in Bakersfield, said.
“With regulations you have background checks that can be enforced and that can keep criminals out.”
If the proposed project is passed, it could generate up to $34 million a year in tax money for the county general fund and thousands of new jobs.
“Our estimate of the jobs based on that it could be thousands of new jobs that would have to be new training. Cultivation is very labor intensive," Oviatt said.
She also warned that any illegal cannabis operations should stop doing business and apply through the process correctly.
There are no legal dispensaries in the city of Bakersfield," she said. “They cannot continue to operate illegally and go through a legal process."
Each business will also be required to contribute to organizations that look at drug use, just like alcohol businesses contribute to similar programs.
A possible new source of tax revenue and new jobs -- if the proposal passes.
A public briefing will be held on August 22 at 2 p.m. at the Kern County Administrative Center at 1115 Truxtun Avenue and a public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on September 28.
Public comment is being taken on the project through September 11.
Regardless of the outcome, adult use of recreational marijuana will be legal beginning January 1, due to Prop 64 passed last November.
The full impact report can be found online.