The future of medical -- and recreational -- marijuana shops is looking bleak after A Bakersfield City Council meeting held Wednesday night.
Medical marijuana shops have been illegal in city limits since 2013 -- and now the city council wants to ban “commercial cannabis activity” as well. This would include commercial manufacturing, cultivation, and distribution as well as recreational pot shops.
“If a citizen is choosing to use marijuana in a legal fashion, as a city we should make a controlled environment,” Certified Cannabis Expert T.J. Esposito said.
He was one of many who spoke out at the city council meeting -- mentioning that the city has seen an “explosion of illegal dispensaries”. He wants marijuana to be regulated -- not banned all together.
Any regulations not made by the city will fall under state law.
The council voted 6 to 1 on the first reading of the ordinance Wednesday -- many in favor of banning marijuana sales all together.
Council member Willie Rivera was the only one to disagree -- saying in a statement: “Marijuana dispensaries have been banned in Bakersfield since 2013. That ban hasn’t worked and Southeast Bakersfield should explore all options to keep our communities safe. I can’t support doing the same thing over and over again when it clearly hasn’t worked.”
Esposito estimated there are between 100 and 250 pot shops in Bakersfield. “It’s a major problem really the city needs about 40, not 150.”
A problem he said could be fixed with regulation.
“And so many are doing wrong and we don’t know, they just all look the same,” he said.
However, recreational use is still allowed under California’s Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The prop was voted down locally, and it left local control up to individual cities in the state.
“We’re carrying out the will locally and hoping that all the marijuana shops and property owners will just listen to the will of the people and go somewhere else,” Deputy City Attorney Richard Iger said.
But many shops have chosen to continue operating, despite the hefty civil fines put in place in April 2017 for both dispensary owners and the property owners that choose to house them. That fine reaching up to $1,000 a day.
“We are working on and have been working on shutting them all down,” Iger said.
That task, Esposito said, could cost the city $2 million to $3 million a year.
“Because the state law allows these people to operate, their ban doesn’t really mean anything unless they go and enforce it and close places down,” he said.
The second reading of the ordinance will take place on October 11. Barring any major changes, the ban of “commercial cannabis activity” will go into effect 30 days later.