Voters might decide pot shops’ fate
Kern County has two measures that could reverse ban
ROSAMOND — Kern County voters in March will have two options to choose from if they would like to see the ban on medical marijuana outlets in unincorporated areas overturned.
A citizen-led measure qualified for the ballot that would, if passed by voters, automatically allow any medical marijuana retail business that was in operation before Jan. 1, 2018, to reopen. It also allows them to relocate to commercial or industrial zoned areas.
A second measure, put forth by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in answer to the first, would allow for medical marijuana retail outlets in industrial zones with a conditional use permit, a process that requires a public hearing and can stipulate additional requirements.
“The Board of Supervisors believed that that particular proposal (by the citizen group) did not adequately address concerns we have for community participation,” said Lorelei Oviatt, Kern County Director of Planning and Natural Resources.
Oviatt outlined the two measures for the March 3 primary election for the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council meeting on Thursday.
The Board did not initiate the ballot measure because it was looking to overturn the ban, approved in October 2017, she said, but to counteract concerns with the first measure.
With the arrival of a retail medical marijuana business providing delivery service in Cal City and another preparing to open in Arvin, Supervisors felt the medicinal needs of residents could be met, she said.
The citizen-led measure would have the biggest impact on the communities of Rosamond and Oildale; in Rosamond, 21 retail outlets could
reopen if it passed, Oviatt said.
Oildale has had about the same concentration of outlets, she said.
The biggest difference between the two ballot measures is the conditional use permit, which opens the business to public input.
“The communities have had no say whatsoever in the previous locations and operations of the medicinal cannabis operations that you all have experienced,” Oviatt said. “There’s absolutely no public hearing for those; there’s absolutely no public permit for those.”
Residents have a say in where many other types of businesses locate through the permit process and they should have the same input to marijuana businesses, she said.
Under the county proposal, medical marijuana businesses would be restricted to industrial zones, which would eliminate the problem of these businesses in the downtown Diamond Street area of Rosamond. Most of the industrial zoned land in Rosamond is along Sierra Highway, Oviatt said, such as where the now-closed AVDC was located.
The county proposal also has setbacks from more sensitive locations such as schools, churches, libraries and the like, than the other proposal, and signage requirements to limit their public presence.
“We’re going to regulate how they interact with the community,”
The citizen-led proposal also allows for cultivation, manufacturing and testing, activities which the county measure does not permit.
Either measure will need 50% plus one of the votes cast to pass. Critics of the county’s move have accused them of trying to split the vote to prevent the citizen-led measure from reaching the required threshold to pass.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Oviatt said.
Despite the county-wide ban on commercial marijuana activities, outlets have continued to operate in Rosamond past the deadline for their closure.
Oviatt said the county’s efforts to shutter these outlets are ongoing, from law enforcement actions to confiscate their inventory to legal proceedings. In some cases, the businesses simply reopen after county officials close them.
“We will continue going after them,” she said. “We are not going to tolerate illegal activities by the cannabis industry. What you are seeing now are what we are calling the hard-core ones that are left.”
Those that are operating now would not be legal under the county’s proposal should it pass, Oviatt said.
“We are going to wear them out. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep going to court,” Oviatt said.
Should a measure by Kern County on the March 3 primary ballot pass, medical marijuana retail businesses would be allowed in industrial areas, such as where the now-closed AVDC is located in Rosamond, with a public permit process.