Pot shops prepare for weekend's launch of Measure G

Pot shops prepare for weekend's launch of Measure G »Play Video
A medical marijuana dispensary is seen in this July 2011 file photo in Bakersfield.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — On Saturday, Kern County's new rule on medical marijuana dispensaries goes into effect. One day before that, the county planning department will put out a new form for collectives to request approval under Measure G, but it's not clear what they'll will do.

"They're closing their doors," Liz Clarke predicted on Thursday. She runs a collective that's not in the county, but that's what she's hearing from those who do.

Eyewitness News also checked with several dispensaries and patients -- many expect the store fronts to shut down.

Kern voters approved Measure G in early June, and the election results were certified by County Supervisors on June 26. It then goes into effect ten days later, and that's Saturday.

Under the new rule, dispensaries can only locate in county areas zoned medium- or heavy-industrial. As a land use rule, the regulation comes under the county planning department.

"I've had inquires from some landlords, but I've not had inquiries from marijuana dispensaries," Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt told Eyewitness News on Thursday. The rule requires dispensary operators to file plans, and it requires consent letters from property owners where they would locate.

A dispensary owner on North Chester Avenue told Eyewitness News he's closing, but he predicts some operations will move into the city of Bakersfield.

Liz Clarke runs Golden State Cooperative in Bakersfield on 27th Street, and she's already seeing some changes with the new county rule.

"There are more patients coming in," Clarke said. "But they're not happy. They have to travel, this isn't their area." They're leaving the dispensaries in county areas.

Clarke hasn't heard if dispensaries will re-locate into the city. Bakersfield does have a resolution that medical marijuana dispensaries are "not a permitted use," but Clarke said she has been in the city for three years.

Another dispensary-operator in the county vows he will not move out. Also located on North Chester, the owner said he's "certified by the State."

"I guess he'll just have to deal with whatever comes," Kern County Chief Deputy Sheriff Francis Moore said. It was the only comment he'd make about that situation.

Moore said his department will act in a supportive role to county Code Compliance officers, because the marijuana rules now fall under code enforcement.

One medical marijuana patient told Eyewitness News the dispensaries she used are now closed, but one still delivers marijuana to her. Moore indicated that's illegal.

"If they want to -- that's a risk," Moore said. "Both state and federal statutes state that it is unlawful to transport marijuana."

Another patient asked Eyewitness News if patients can still grow marijuana, and Moore said another county ordinance does allow up to 12 plants to be grown on any parcel of land.

But as for dispensaries, Oviatt said It's believed there are two already in appropriate zones under the new rule. She said they still have to show they meet the other parts of Measure G.

The ordinance requires that dispensaries be one thousand feet from each other, and from any school, daycare, park or school. It also now bans any edible marijuana products.

There are also requirements for things like signs, lighting and parking. All that will come under the site development plan.

County planning department officials believe there are 26 dispensaries now located in areas with zones that don't meet the new regulation.

The department will put the new application forms for a site development plan on their website starting Friday, July 6. They'll start accepting the applications on July 9.

Oviatt said existing dispensaries were set up under the old county rules, and after they get notification letters from code enforcement they'll go through the normal county review process.

The collectives have to show they comply with Measure G, request a zone change for where they are located now, or move to property in a zone that's now required.

The new rule goes on the books July 7.

Oviatt said it'll be enforced, though it may take a while to get through the process for all the dispensaries. "We'll work our way through what the voters told us to do," she said.