The future of the marijuana industry in Kern County was thrown into disarray after voters rejected all three cannabis measures on Tuesday’s ballot.
The 20-odd medical marijuana dispensaries that continue to operate legally in unincorporated Kern County are using county permits that are set to expire at the end of November.
Without action by the Board of Supervisors, those dispensaries could be shuttered if they do not receive extensions to their permits.
And those extensions would only allow the dispensaries to be open into the spring of next year.
“It’s a shame,” said Heather Epps, a signatory of two medical marijuana measures voted on in Bakersfield and Kern County. “I feel bad for the patients, really, who are going to suffer.”
The three measures up for vote sought to overturn a ban in both Kern County and Bakersfield on marijuana dispensaries.
Two measures brought forward by Epps’ group, Kern Citizens for Patient Rights, would have allowed for medical marijuana dispensaries in either the county or the city.
Another measure, brought forward by an industrial real estate investment group, Industrial Partners Group, would have allowed for both medical and recreational dispensaries, while capping the number of dispensaries to 35.
Now that residents of both Bakersfield and the county have spoken out against the shops, a path to legal pot within the county remains unclear.
And with a deadline fast approaching, many dispensaries could soon move underground.
“They are going to operate illegally,” Epps said of the dispensaries. “They are going to move out of that building that they’re in and they’re going to move into a house in your neighborhood.”
But not everybody views results of the Tuesday’s election negatively.
David Brust, co-founder of the group, Bakersfield Residents Against Pot Shops, looked at the election as the first step in the right direction for the county.
His group wants to limit medical marijuana dispensaries to the industrial areas of the county, which none of the measures did.
“I feel great about the vote,” he said. “I think that the residents of Bakersfield as well as the county realized that these cannabis measures were flawed from the beginning.”
He hopes dispensary owners and community leaders will come together following the election to come up with an ordinance that will satisfy the pot detractors and allow the medical marijuana patients to buy product within the county.
“We need advocates that are patient rights advocates and we need concerned citizens that jointly, with city and county government, can come up with a plan that’s going to work for everyone,” he said. “What we don’t want is to wait two years and have an ordinance that’s thrown down our throats.”
Outside of a new ordinance by either the supervisors or city council, voters could potentially see another medical marijuana measure on the ballot in March 2020.
“Our ballot measure will be our last chance, and our last hope for saving medical cannabis,” said David Abbasi, president of Central Valley Cannabis Association.
His group’s measure, which has been certified by the county, would legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated county areas.
Supervisors could still adopt the measure or approve a separate ordinance.
Until local officials take action or another ballot measure appears, Kern County cannabis users may soon need to drive to another county to get their fix.