Neighboring businesses concerned about pot shops

Neighboring businesses concerned about pot shops »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Some downtown Bakersfield business owners are worried about their new neighbors. Several medical marijuana dispensaries have recently opened up on 18th and 17th streets.

One nearby office just found a syringe in their front planter, another businesswoman sees more foot and car traffic.

"This is not cool with me," Ida Tagliente told Eyewitness News. She's the executive director of the Kern Adult Literacy Council. She spotted a syringe under the front window when she closed up Monday night.

"Is it because of the element?" she said. "Is it because of what's moved in? What's going on?" A half block to the east, the BMC medical marijuana dispensary recently set up shop. Several doors west of the council, OHC is doing business.

Eyewitness News went to both facilities. A man who opened the door at BMC said a reporter could talk to someone. But, no one returned. At OHC there was an "open" sign, but no one answered the locked door. A man sweeping up out front offered to take a reporter's business card to the operators. No one called back.

In between the dispensaries, a businesswoman said she's afraid of retaliation, and didn't want to be identified. But, she's worried about having the operations in the area.

"The element of traffic that comes around," she said. "Coming and going all the time. Seven days a week." She thought dispensaries could only go in industrial zones, after Measure G was passed.

"I didn't realize that was in the county, I thought we were voting on everywhere in Kern County," the businesswoman said. But, Measure G is not in effect within city limits. Though the city council passed a resolution in 2004 which states "medical marijuana dispensaries are not permitted uses within any zone in the City of Bakersfield."

Voters approved Measure G, which put in place a Kern County ordinance that restricts medical marijuana dispensaries to industrial zones, and requires them to be at least one mile from each other, and a mile from any park, school, church or day care center.

The businesswoman on 18th Street called Bakersfield police when she spotted the dispensary. She reached a watch commander, and said she was told there's nothing officers can do.

Eyewitness News contacted the BPD. Detective Uriel Pacheco said officers can check dispensaries to make sure they're in compliance with state and local laws. "If a resident or citizen sees an offense, they can call the police department," he said.

Eyewitness News also called Bakersfield code enforcement. They haven't gotten any reports of violations.

In addition to the two dispensaries on 18th Street, a cooperative appears to be set up near 17th and Union. No one at the "Green Zone" answered the door when a reporter knocked there.

A number of people were seen coming and going from the BMC facility while a reporter was there on Tuesday morning. Several people asked to have the news camera turned off, one man swore at a reporter.

But, Eric Kaylor stopped before getting into his car, and answered some questions. Kaylor said he's a member of BMC and a member at another dispensary in Santa Cruz, where he lives.

He thinks the operations can fit into the business area if the dispensaries themselves handle problems like any loitering.

"Any trouble, take care of it, get it out of here. They have to respect their neighbors," Kaylor said. "And the neighbors have to respect this place."

He argues the dispensaries are part of the economy, and create jobs.

At the Literacy Council, Tagliente has mixed feelings about what the dispensaries do.

"I have friends that have cancer, and (medical marijuana) has helped them," she said. "But the people that I'm noticing going in and out of these places don't look too sick."

Tagliente said workers in her office will keep a closer eye on people walking through the area, and parking, and watch their property for things like the syringe. She hopes there's some way to regulate or maintain safety near the dispensaries.

"I don't know if you could do zoning for it," Tagliente said. Or she wonders if there could be regulations about hours of operation for the dispensaries.

Bakersfield City Attorney Ginny Gennaro told Eyewitness News it would be "appropriate" to regulate dispensaries through zoning, but the law is "in flux" right now.

"There's no clear understanding of what can be done by zoning," Gennaro said Tuesday. She noted several cases from other cities are before the state supreme court, and she hoped there could be rulings in 2013.

Gennaro also doubts the syringe found near the Literacy Council has anything to do with the marijuana dispensaries.

But the worried business-owner on 18th says the dispensaries don't fit into the area. She notes the street is lined with offices for attorneys, accountants, real estate and some non-profit organizations.

"People are bringing kids around here all the time," the business woman said. "I don't know that that's a very good element."