Kern County needs a plan for pot regulation

By AK Pachla


Kern County has been at odds about how to handle cannabis decriminalization for as long as I’ve been here.

When I moved here in October of 2011, the scandal was about the differences between a cannabis cooperative and a cannabis dispensary, and the county shut down a bunch of places that were functioning as dispensaries, but were only paying the licensing and registration for a co-op.

Then there was Measure G in June of 2012. That measure would have regulated where dispensaries could be operated in Kern County.

The measure was passed, but declared invalid because the county didn’t do the right kind of environmental impact study.

For the last six years, cannabis has become more and more legal and available all over California, where voters officially ended cannabis prohibition statewide starting this year, but Kern County still struggles to adapt. Every few days, reports of county sheriffs raiding local dispensaries come through on local news.

Growers and dispensary owners still live with the threat of raids. Many local dispensaries have resorted to becoming delivery services because local retail landlords are leery about renting space to cannabis businesses.

The confusion has even affected our local government. Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, currently running for re-election, was charged with a criminal misdemeanor this past summer for hiding a conflict of interest when she voted on certain issues relevant to cannabis business licensing.

Her husband has a vested interest in a local dispensary, and the outcome of Perez’s vote would have affected her own personal finances.

Perez has since chosen to abstain from any more votes on cannabis issues, but she has retained the office through the misdemeanor process.

And so in this election season, the county is trying again to sort out this weed business. Activists and volunteers have pushed petitions in every corner of Kern County trying to get a plan on the ballot.

The results are Measure J and K, and for residents of the City of Bakersfield, Measure O. All three of these measures would create a system for regulating and taxing the cultivation, sale, possession, and use of both medical and recreational cannabis.

Voters are able to vote on each individually and do not have to chose just one measure to vote on, but in order to be adopted by the county, a measure would have to get more than 55 percent “yes” votes. It is possible that all three measures could pass.

Legal marijuana is here to stay in California, at least for the foreseeable future. Failing to regulate this new business opportunity within Kern County is causing problems that go beyond the normal “what about the children” types of concerns.

Even our county supervisors are spending more time arguing about weed than they should be.

This is our chance to tell them to stop. Even residents who aren’t cannabis users would still benefit from the county devising and implementing a system to start collecting taxes from its cultivation and sale.

It is possible for voters to pass Measures J, K, and O simultaneously if each measure receives more than 55 percent “yes” votes. If all three measures pass with that kind of momentum, it will send the message to the Board of Supervisors that we want them to start working on a plan for legitimate regulation.

As it is now, county government is too willing to let county sheriffs infringe on the rights of growers, dispensary owners, and patients, raiding grows and businesses too regularly for this being a place where weed is supposed to be legal.

Kern County needs a plan, and we need our Board of Supervisors to start working on that plan right away.

Voters who prefer one cannabis measure to another should vote yes on their choice. Voters who don’t have a preference should vote yes on all of them.

Right now, every cannabis business is up in the air. Closures are threatened for November. Patients all over Bakersfield and Kern County are nervous about whether or not our medicine is going to remain available to us.

For the business, for the patients, for the tax revenue, vote yes on having a plan. Vote yes on Measure J, Measure K, and Measure O.