What marijuana ban means for Kern County

Guest Editorial

What marijuana ban  means for Kern CountyBy MICK GLEASON, Kern County 1st District Supervisor

On Nov. 9, 2016, California voters passed the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act”, better known as AUMA or Prop 64. This new legislation, which allowed for the commercial cultivation, sale and recreational use of marijuana, was passed by a margin of 57 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed. In addition to the legalization of marijuana at the state level, a provision was included allowing for local regulation and taxation. This provision takes in to account the vastness of our state as well as the disparity of values in our many communities. For example, Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties supported legalization by a strong margin, unlike Kern County, whose residents voted against Prop 64.

Because the caveat was included to leave the majority of regulation to local governments, it was incumbent on the Kern County Board of Supervisors to take action. The first step in this process was gathering as much information as possible through our Planning Department and figuring out what our options were. After the issue was exhaustively researched, the Planning Department presented multiple options to the board on whether we should implement regulation on the retail sale and or cultivation of marijuana.

This began a whole new round of discussions with residents, business owners, city officials, law enforcement officials and legal experts. In addition to these outreach efforts, we received many calls, e-mails and opinions from passionate individuals on both sides of the aisle. Although each side put forth many valid points and suggestions, the consensus was an affirmation of Kern County’s Prop 64 vote; residents did not want commercial and retail marijuana activity in Kern County, but were interested in allowances for medical use.

On Oct. 24 of this year, the board took up the issue in open session. After hearing and considering a tremendous amount of input, the board voted 4-1 to ban the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana. Now, many are asking what this means for recreational, and more importantly, medical marijuana consumption and availability.

Under current law individuals are allowed to possess up to six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants for personal use or for qualified medical use. Recreational and medical consumption is legal as defined in state law (AUMA and the Compassionate Care Act of 1996). Commercial cultivation is not allowed in Kern County, nor is the sale of “edible” cannabis products. Illegal dispensaries are to be closed; however, legal medical dispensaries are allowed to remain open for up to a year while they apply to the State of California for a license. During this time, the county is exploring options for a delivery program to ensure uninterrupted access to prescription cannabis for patients suffering from certain medical conditions; a program that is legitimate, and one that we can all have confidence in.

While this is a difficult issue with a diverse number of opinions, we are a diverse community, and it is important that all Kern County residents are well represented. I would like to thank the many Kern County residents who reached out and provided their valuable input. I will continue to navigate this issue as well as the many other critical issues facing our county in a way that considers all points of view, yet will continue to be a voice for public safety.

Story First Published: 2017-11-17