Council passes cannabis ban in Ridgecrest

Action amends municipal code to prohibit commercial and medicinal activities

Council passes cannabis ban in RidgecrestBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

After the second reading of an ordinance amending the Ridgecrest Municipal Code to outlaw commercial or medical cultivation or distribution of cannabis within the city, the Ridgecrest City Council unanimously approved the amendment during its regular Wednesday meeting. The decision brings the terminology up to speed with current state legislation, according to Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, and follows a similar ruling of the Kern County Board of Supervisors regarding the county.

McLaughlin offered several clarifications on what activities were permitted and what were not during the discussion. The main question over the last few months has been where medicinal cannabis will be available to the many medical users in our valley.

While the municipal code now prohibits medical dispensaries, any full-blown medical facility – such as the hospital – is permitted to provide medical marijuana to patients with chronic illness. But that decision remains up to the hospital.

In accordance with state law, any person over the age of 21 is permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use either recreationally or medicinally. When and where can citizens partake? McLaughlin said it’s easiest to draw comparisons to tobacco and alcohol.

As with alcohol, anyone over the age of 21 can consume marijuana freely at home or in explicitly designated areas. But you can’t bring it to a restaurant and you can’t use it on the street.

Marijuana for medicinal users is more akin to tobacco use. It’s prohibited indoors, but any permitted medical user can smoke cannabis anywhere they can smoke tobacco. It is still always illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.

“There are a lot of cancer patients, and I’m one of them,” said Jaime Sandoval, a medical user, during public comment.

He cautioned against the ordinance amendment given that the city is in the process of selling land to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe for a casino. The tribe already has a marijuana cultivation and sales operation in Death Valley

“They sell it in Nevada,” said Sandoval. “I guarantee you if the county and the city ban it, [the tribe is] going to sell it. Whatever they tell you – it’s [tribal] land. They can do what what they want.”

The tribe has stated that it has no plans for marijuana operations here and that it agrees to adhere to the city’s municipal code. But like Sandoval, many others have pointed out that the city has little recourse if the tribe decides to change its plans.

For more information, visit www.ridgecrest-ca.gov.

Story First Published: 2017-11-17