CALIFORNIA CITY – When it comes to sales of medicinal marijuana, Kern County’s loss may turn out to be California City’s gain.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted recently to deny appeals from several medicinal marijuana dispensaries to remain open past a May 24 deadline. Three dispensaries in Rosamond were ordered to close even earlier — March 28.
“I think the decision was expected. The board’s been working in that direction for some time,” said California City Manager Bob Stockwell. “It just simply points to the correctness of our decision to encourage the business in Cal City. It’s good for us because there will be a need for customers to have an option to legally obtain marijuana, and it opens opportunities for other businesses to take a look at Cal City.”
California law gave the decision of whether a city or county would allow the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retailing of cannabis to the voters in each jurisdiction.
“In Cal City the voters approved, and in Kern County the voters said no,” said Stockwell. “Cities and counties are distinct government entities. Kern County cannot adopt laws that control Cal City, so their votes to close all dispensaries has no impact on Cal City or any of the other cities in Kern County.”
Kern County Zoning Ordinance Code Section 19.08.055 banned all cannabis operations in unincorporated Kern County effective Nov. 24, 2018. Some of the existing cannabis retail operations were allowed to continue operations past that date to mitigate any “substantive economic impact and permit the owner to reasonably recoup the value of their investment.”
Supervisors held a special meeting on March 18 for continued hearings from the Planning and Natural Resources Department for appeals by current cannabis retail operations throughout the county to continue operating. Taft Highway Collective in Taft and Highway 99 Collective in Bakersfield withdrew their appeals before the meeting. Each of the retail operations had the option of appearing before the board and giving a 20-minute presentation to argue in favor of a time extension, based on video footage of the meeting and official minutes.
“Staff has knowledge of nine, five temporary lawful and four off-the-list illegal, operations in a three-mile area of central Rosamond,” said Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt during her portion of the meeting. She noted that the department had received numerous complaints from residents, business owners and Rosamond officials regarding those cannabis retail operations.
Following a presentation by Plum Tree collective representative Jafar Daneshfar, Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner stated his concerns.
“This particular location is in my district, District Two, Rosamond, a town that frankly has been inundated by medical marijuana dispensaries over the course of the last several years,” he said. “At one time we had 19 dispensaries in a town of only 18,000 people. That is why we have had such a tremendous amount of public outrage in regard to the dispensaries in Rosamond. But what we’re doing here today isn’t to talk about the merits of having the dispensaries and not having them — that has already been decided.”
Scrivner said he believed the businesses had been given more than enough time to recoup their investment and made a motion to order the closure of Plum Tree no later than March 28.
“We gave what I believe was an adequate period of time,” he said.
The motion passed 4-0. Supervisor Leticia Perez, who has been charged by the Kern County District Attorney’s office with two misdemeanors relating to conflict of interest violations between herself and marijuana interests, was absent from the meeting.
Tanner Vest Collective, also in Rosamond, was next on the agenda. The business was represented in the meeting by attorney Philip Ganong, who represented several businesses appearing before the board for this meeting.
Ganong urged supervisors to make their decisions based on empirical data and not emotions, saying it was unfair to punish the legal businesses for actions of the illegal ones. He also submitted several pages of documents to the board that he hoped would bolster his case.
Bill Parkman and Dennis Shoffner of the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council spoke in opposition to extending the time period for Tanner Vest to continue operations.
“By and large the community has been very much against cannabis,” said Parkman. “We get approached about this every day.”
Christopher Clark, an employee of Tanner Vest, spoke in favor of extending the time period, and Rosamond resident Lisa Checkley echoed Ganong’s sentiments that it was wrong to hold Tanner Vest accountable for actions by illegal marijuana businesses in the area.
“I’m not going to disagree with you that there’s a spectrum of behavior when it comes to dispensaries,” said Scrivner. “Some are better than others. Tanner Vest may be … one of the better actors.”
He added that had been on several of the enforcement responses to the illegal dispensaries.
“We’ve been playing whack-a-mole out there for years,” said Scrivner, describing his frustration that one illegal shop would be shut down and another would soon open in its place.
The appeal was denied following a closing statement by Ganong. As with Plum Tree, Tanner Vest was ordered to close no later than March 28.
AVDC and Organic Health Solutions, also operating in Rosamond, had their appeals denied as well. AVDC was ordered to close no later than no later than May 24, while Organic Health Solutions was ordered to cease operations by March 28.
Sweet Leaf Organics of Bakersfield withdrew their appeal during the meeting. Bakersfield Alternative Health Center also had their appeal denied and were ordered to close no later than May 24.
Reporting for the special meeting portion of this article was based on official video and transcripts of the minutes. The full video of the meeting is available under the Board Agenda, Minutes, and Video link at www.kerncounty.com/bos/.