Bakersfield Police Department officers served search warrants at two downtown Bakersfield medical marijuana dispensaries Monday, seizing $11,790 in cash and a total of 85 pounds of marijuana.
It’s part of an ongoing effort to push the storefront operations out of the city, where land use ordinances make the shops illegal.
A total of 63 marijuana shops have reportedly been closed down since the city began an enforcement blitz in early October, officials said.
Most of those, said attorney Richard Iger with the city, were either evicted by their landlords or chose to close after being notified they were in violation of city land use rules.
But, with some, closure has required stronger encouragement.
In October, the city raided 10 dispensaries and cited nearly 20 people for misdemeanor crimes, according to police.
While the personal cultivation, possession and use of marijuana is legal under California law, the City of Bakersfield and the County of Kern have passed ordinances banning commercial marijuana growing and sales.
Operating a dispensary is a crime in those jurisdictions, but the violation carries penalties more in common with those from driving over the speed limit than with those for criminal enterprise.
On Monday BPD officers raided the Green Door collective at 801 South H Street and the Sunny Beach Collective at 551 Brundage Lane, said Bakesfield Police spokesman Sgt. Ryan Kroeker.
They seized 49 pounds of marijuana at Green Door and 36 pounds at Sunny Beach Collective.
No citations or arrests were made, Kroeker said.
That is because, Iger said, the people operating the dispensaries fled and police did not pursue.
Police, he said, declined to “get into a foot pursuit over a municipal code violation.”
Iger said the thing that has made the difference in recent months, prompting the closure of so many shops, is the tough stance the city has taken on the issue and the aggressive enforcement.
He said he went out to several dispensaries over the past couple weeks and told them “If you close asap then there will be nothing to worry about.”
When police went out to check on them, he said, they were closed.
But will the shop operators simply take their product and open up shop in a new location, a practice that has been standard operating procedure for the medical marijuana business for years?
“We’ve not seen shops relocating in the city,” Iger said. “In the past it was a serious game of whack-a-mole. If they are taking their product and moving somewhere else it's not to a location in the city.”