New pot shop in office complex sours nearby businesses

New pot shop in office complex sours nearby businesses »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — New complaints and concerns have surfaced about medical marijuana dispensaries that set up shop in a Bakersfield office complex.

Nearby businesses said smells from the collective sicken their employees. Dispensary spokesmen said they've made a real effort to be a good neighbor.

An office manager in the complex at 1400 Easton Drive called Eyewitness News frustrated at the situation.

"The environmental issue is something that I can't seem to overcome, and it affects workers who should have rights not to work in that kind of an environment," she said on Friday. "Somebody needs to do something." She didn't want to be identified.

Nearby, the Kern County Medicinal Collective is situated in another office suite, they've been there a couple months.

"We've aggressively tried to be a good neighbor," collective spokesman Jeff Jarvis told Eyewitness News by phone. "We've tried to take the appropriate steps in communicating and solving the problems."

Jarvis said before renting the site, the collective asked if it was "sealed" unit, and were assured it was.

But, after nearby businesses complained about odors, they checked and found it was not. At that point, Jarvis said the collective spent $1,000 to install an air filtration system.

The office manager said the situation got better for a while, but now it's worse.

"My employees are having issues," she said. "They've had headaches, they've got sinus problems, they sneeze."

SLM Staffing is next to the collective, and smells have also caused problems for their employees. Reached by phone in Las Vegas, owner Alicia Herndon said they've also "beefed up security," which increased her company's costs.

Herndon agreed with the other office manager that the collective had tried to work with them, but it's still a problem.

Both businesses say they also have concerns about the clients who come to the dispensary. It's not the usual business people they'd expect at an office complex.

Also, the office manager has seen marijuana being smoked in the complex parking lot.

She tried to get help, calling the Drug Enforcement Agency, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Bakersfield Police, local air pollution district and the property management company for the complex.

She wants to know her rights, and says it's not because the problem is over medical marijuana. "I have to look out for the best for the employees," the manager said. "I'd try to find out how, regardless of the cause."

In the same office complex on Easton, a second medical marijuana dispensary is operating. Businesses nearby say BMC has been there for a few weeks.

The other companies said they hadn't noticed any smells from the collective, but they also have worries about its presence in the complex

In 2004, the Bakersfield City Council approved a resolution that forbids collectives. "Medical marijuana dispensaries are not permitted uses within any zone in the city of Bakersfield," it reads.

Asked about that, associate city attorney Richard Iger said when his office gets complaints, they refer them to the police department, and the officers "investigate that, to the extent they can."

Near the Kern County Medicinal Collective, the concerned office manager said Bakersfield Police came to the complex on Thursday.

"They could smell the smell in here and they agreed it was offensive," she said. "They said there was nothing they could do, their hands were tied."

Eyewitness News contacted BPD Detective Uriel Pacheco. He said officers determined the dispensary was "not in violation of state law," but they would continue to monitor it.

On Thursday, the office manager also got a call from federal officers in the DEA.

"They're actually going to do something," the manager says she was told. "They're going to issue letters to the property owners stating that they have to kick these people out, or they'll seize their property."

Jeff Jarvis, with the collective, said the group had been located on Pegasus Drive, which is in the county. They moved after the new Kern County ordinance went into effect that restricts dispensaries to only certain industrial zones.

"We don't want to be a bad neighbor," Jarvis stressed. "That's the last thing we want to do."

But, SLM Staffing said they have concerns about their new next-door neighbor. A company spokesman said it doesn't work well to have a medical marijuana dispensary next to their company, which has a drug-use zero tolerance for employees they send out.

The spokeswoman at the other nearby business agrees it's a bad fit in an office complex.

"They should be in a place where they don't have adjacent walls, and adjacent ceilings, and adjacent ventilation," the office manager said.

She thinks there should be uniform rules on where marijuana collectives can operate. "I'd like them to move out to a more appropriate place."