Medical marijuana laws may look a little different in Kern County and the city limits of Bakersfield this November following new measures on this year’s general election ballot.
23ABC spoke to a Bakersfield lawyer who wrote two of the new measures, as well as a medicinal store owner to see just how the new laws will impact the community, and how they plan to vote.
Since may of 2016 medical marijuana shops are no longer opening new locations in Kern County or the city limits of Bakersfield, following a ban on medicinal and recreational shops that was enacted by the county according to the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Bakersfield attorney of 30 years Phil Ganong is on a mission this November to make a change to the current laws prohibiting new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening in the unincorporated areas of Kern County and the city limits of Bakersfield. "In writing the initiatives on both for the city and the county I didn't want to create any artificial monopolies, I wanted these two pieces of legislation to be transparent, police can come in, anyone can come in and look at the book. I wanted to write it in a way that benefited the consumer," Ganong said.
Ganong has spent over ten years advocating for medicinal marijuana rights for citizens in Kern County and believes medicinal marijuana will bring jobs and tax dollars to the county. Now he is the author of Measure O and Measure J on this November ballot.
Measure O would lift the ban on commercial medicinal marijuana activities in the city limits of Bakersfield.
Measure J would lift the ban on commercial medicinal marijuana activities in Kern County but could cost the county between $6,000 and $20,000 according to county officials .
If neither ,“O” or “J” pass existing medicinal marijuana shops formed before the initial ban will be forced to close in six months.
Measure K would lift the ban on medicinal and adult recreational activities, however, according to Lorelei Oviatt with the Kern County Planning Commission, this would not be a total ban on marijuana but it would provide new parameters for the supervisors to enforce, “Both of the initiatives specifically do not allow a total ban of cannabis activities however both include a variety of limitations on cannabis activities, It can only be amended by another vote of the people however portions of the initiatives that do allow your board to bring forward a variety of ordinances.”
Some of the ordinances could limit the number of permits to specific locations and obtaining state license as well. Oviatt said a cannabis task force is recommend which could cost the county between $1.2 and $1.7 million. On the other hand they would become eligible for state cannabis funding.
The owner of Budville, Steve Duce said he is doing his best to work with the county's demands so that his medical marijuana shop will become officially licensed and will not be shut down in six months, “The front door will be changed out for handicap, there's going to be two handicap parking spots put into the parking lot, it will all be striped again."
Along with having to add a dumpster outside and a unisex bathroom inside, Duce will also have to upgrade his electrical system and ensure his building is up to fire code safety regulations before the six month deadline. However, he is confident that voting in favor of measure J will make things easier on his shop, "Most likely support the county measure for the medical marijuana regulations," Duce said.
If you live in an unincorporated part of Kern County you will be the ones to see this on the ballot.