Vot­ers might de­cide pot shops’ fate

Kern County has two mea­sures that could re­verse ban

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Front Page - Val­ley Press Staff Writer By AL­LI­SON GATLIN

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,”

Ovi­att said.

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.

Val­ley Press files

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.

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