Kern County supervisors took the first step toward banning the sale of medical marijuana though organized, nonprofit collectives and cooperatives in county areas Tuesday over the objections of a crowd that filled their chambers and marched down Truxtun Avenue.
The Board of Supervisors could have slammed the plan into place immediately.
But it chose to wait one week and take more input from staff about the impact on patients.
Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a first reading of an ordinance that would create the ban on collectives, limit the number of plants that could be grown outside on a piece of property to 99 and outlaw the sale of marijuana-laced food products.
A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for next Tuesday, allowing for more debate on the issue.
If supervisors support the ordinance again that day, the rule would become law 30 days later.
Lawyers for medical marijuana cooperatives promised the county would face legal action.
"You are going to get sued," said attorney Phil Ganong. "We've got the money. We will do it."
The counties of Orange, Los Angeles and Sacramento have also approved bans. The city of Bakersfield has a ban through zoning laws.
The debate among Kern County supervisors Tuesday was diverse.
Supervisor Ray Watson made a motion to refer the ordinance back to staff, which got initial support from Supervisor Karen Goh.
But when Supervisors Mike Maggard and Jon McQuiston criticized the idea, Goh said she misunderstood the motion and Watson backpedaled as well.
Maggard said sending the question back to staff would open up a can of worms, allowing the heated debate over the issue of medical marijuana collectives to drag on and on.
Watson said there are illegal operations out there and there are fake patients, but there has to be a way to deal with those directly without trying to wipe out the troublemakers with a sweeping ordinance.
"I don't think we have really talked about how we actually want this to work," Watson said.
He pointed to the testimony of Jane Prewett, who told the story of how marijuana baked into a cake helped her husband enjoy more peace in the final months of his life.
"When you're facing death, you will take whatever help you can get," she said. "I usually agree with the sheriff, but on this he is very wrong."
"I was struck by Jane Prewett's comments. I don't think that Jane Prewett is capable of growing marijuana," Watson said. "I don't care what anyone takes, whether it's legal or not, if it makes it easier for them as they are dying."
Staff said they will try to develop more information for Watson that would explain how people can still acquire medical marijuana when storefront dispensaries are gone.
Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt told the board that if the formal storefronts go away, the cooperative relationship -- where growers with cards grow more than they can use and give the excess to other members of the group -- could continue informally.
Long-time marijuana advocate Doug McAfee said he was frustrated but not surprised by the decision.
He said there isn't a problem with the way collectives and cooperatives work currently and the supervisors didn't have evidence about the secondary crime and problems created by the operations -- just the word of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who he said has it out for medical marijuana.
"There will be a backlash against the Board of Supervisors, a referendum, a recall," McAfee said.