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Patients, distributors worry about access to medicine as cannabis dispensaries set to close Friday

Posted at 12:46 AM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 13:45:32-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — All cannabis dispensaries in Kern County are expected to close their doors this Friday, May 24 after the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted it was the last day the shops could legally sell cannabis.

For dispensary owners Russell and Jennifer Romandia, who own The Crop, there's an instant concern about how their more than 6,000 patients are going to get the medicine they need.

"When it's taken away people are looking for an alternative. Whether that's going back to the opioids looking for the local you know source that doesn't have category three, state compliant medicine it's not a safe medicine." said Russell Romandia.

Wayne Wire, a retired aerospace engineer has been going to The Crop for the past year.

He worked on satellites for 37 years and over the three decades in the business, he suffered a few shoulder injuries. One shoulder he had to have surgery on three times, the other he had to have surgery twice.

"When it's taken away people are looking for an alternative. Whether that's going back to the opioids looking for the local you know source that doesn't have category three, state compliant medicine it's not a safe medicine." - Russell Romandia, The Crop

"The medications they gave me caused me internal damage to my intestines, my stomach lining, things like that." Wire said.

Wire said for years he was in pain from the effects of the medication. He said he tried all of the newest treatments, but nothing ever helped long term.

When he retired two years ago, he said it was a friend who suggested he try cannabis to help with the pain.

"I didn't think there was a long-term medical benefit from it. Once I found out that there was, I was very, very just blown away. I couldn't believe it." - Wayne Wire, retired aerospace engineer

"I didn't think there was a long-term medical benefit from it. Once I found out that there was, I was very, very just blown away. I couldn't believe it." said Wire.

Wire got his medical recommendation and tried it out. He said he instantly felt relief. Now he uses marijuana flowers, edibles or a vape pen depending on where he is and his pain levels.

The Crop, where Wire buys his medication, is located off of State Road near Highway 99 and Olive Drive.

It's a plain building with a blue and white exterior. The only signage the building has is a sign that hangs on the chain-link fence in front of the building with their name, contact information and state license number.

The Crop was the first of three state licensed facilities in Kern County.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON STATE LICENSING AND THE BUREAU OF CANNABIS CONTROL, CLICK HERE

TO CHECK THE LICENSE OF A CANNABIS DISPENSARY, CLICK HERE

TO FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST A CANNABIS DISPENSARY OR REPORT ILLEGAL OPERATIONS, CLICK HERE

When you walk inside the building you go directly into an entry area where staff checks in patients and confirms they have an active medical recommendation. After that, an employee takes the patient into the room where the medicine is kept.

The room looks like a typical drug store. All of the items for sale are in packages, containers or boxes. There are CBD oils, edibles, concentrates, and most recognizable, marijuana flowers. Each of the items has a special symbol on it, signifying it has pass more than 100 quality tests.

"Obtaining your medicine from a state license facility it assures you that it's been tested by an accredited lab. That there is category three testing which is ultimately the equivalent of organic food testing done to the medicine." said Russell Romandia.

The state testing also assures patients that they are getting the same dosage every time they purchase an item.

Similar to a pharmacist or doctor, employees help patients choose the right medicine depending on their symptoms.

"There's so many different applications for cannabis, whether it's a topical, a sub-lingual, under the tongue, people can inhale, people can consume with an edible. You know, it's really tailored fit to each person's need." said Jennifer Romandia.

Having a state license comes with a list of rules and regulations from the Bureau of Cannabis Control. For instance, surveillance cameras cover the inside and outside of the building and footage must be kept for at least 90 days. The way they received products to sell also has to be secure and they have to keep detailed records about which products are sold to which patients.

The Romandias said they hoped by showing the public what a state licensed cannabis dispensary looks like, it'll clear up some of the misconceptions.

"We just hope that everybody gets informed to see what it is because once you kind of demystify it, the thing that has once plagued everybody and scared people for so long, it's not so scary." - Jennifer Romandia, The Crop

"We just hope that everybody gets informed to see what it is because once you kind of demystify it, the thing that has once plagued everybody and scared people for so long, it's not so scary." said Jennifer Romandia.

Regardless, on May 24, The Crop is set to close its doors.

"We're more upset about our patients losing their medicine than us having to close our doors as a business." said Jennifer Romandia.

County Supervisor and chairman David Couch said he feels bad that people may be losing access to their medicine, but said he believe they'll come back to the topic of medical cannabis eventually.
He said he has had discussions with the staff about ways the county can regulate cannabis that he believes people would support.

"I think that most people believe that if you're on chemotherapy, or if you've got pain, pretty substantial pain, I don't particularly care what type of medicine is prescribed for you, what works for you and I'd like to find a way that we could help those people in that kind of a situation." - David Couch, chairman and District 4 County Supervisor

"I think that most people believe that if you're on chemotherapy, or if you've got pain, pretty substantial pain, I don't particularly care what type of medicine is prescribed for you, what works for you and I'd like to find a way that we could help those people in that kind of a situation." said Couch.

He said with a medical marijuana measure being placed before voters in March of 2020, the board is going to have to make a decision.

"I think the key point is the board is going to have to decide whether or not we want to enact an ordinance ourselves. whether or not we want to put something on the ballot that would compete with the measure that'll be on in March or whether we want to just let the one in march play out alone, by itself and kind of let the people decide. We've kind of got that decision to make." said Couch.

In the meantime, the Romandias and Wire are going to have to wait and see what happens, although it seems the discussion about cannabis dispensaries is not far away.

On Tuesday, May 21, at the Board of Supervisors meeting District 2 Supervisor Zack Scrivner requested a referral for the meeting on June 11 to discuss cannabis dispensaries. He specifically asked for a refresher on the measure that will be on the ballot in March, adding that he already has concerns should it pass.

"For one thing, it would allow for all the dispensaries that were open before January 1st, 2018 to reopen. And so I can see a town like Rosamond where we've had as many as 20 at one point, being inundated once again because of customers coming in from LA county." said Scrivner.

Scrivner also asked staff to find out what potential options the county has and what alternatives may be available in response to the initiative.

The board voted in favor of discussing it at the June 11 meeting.

READ THE FULL TEXT FOR THE CANNABIS MEASURE THAT WILL BE ON THE BALLOT IN MARCH 2020 BELOW: