Kern County Supervisors said Tuesday they support the concept of allowing medical marijuana delivery businesses to be established in the unincorporated areas of the county.
They voted to send the idea to a board subcommittee, which will hash out a host of questions raised Tuesday.
The basic concept of the plan, brought forward by Supervisor Mike Maggard, is pretty straightforward.
If it becomes reality, marijuana businesses would be allowed, within unincorporated Kern County, to take and deliver orders for marijuana to patients who have a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis.
Drivers would work from a few — the number six has been discussed a lot — private, closed businesses located strategically in various corners of Kern County.
They would deliver cannabis to the doorsteps of patients.
Maggard said he hoped the board would direct the county to develop rules that would allow people who have a medical need for the drug to obtain it.
But supervisors make it clear that their commitment to banning the cultivation, processing and commercial sale of marijuana stands.
The possession and use of marijuana - as well as the personal cultivation of up to six mature marijuana plants - was legalized in California in November 2016 by state voters' approval of Prop. 64.
But the state has taken a year to work out how it will handle the growing, testing, processing and distribution of cannabis commercially.
And Prop. 64 allowed cities and counties to ban commercial pot altogether — which Kern County has done.
The Health and Social Services subcommittee, with Maggard and Supervisor Mick Gleason as members, will now take up the proposed mobile medical marijuana concept.
Kern County Counsel Mark Nations offered supervisors an outline of that plan Tuesday in a memo.
Under Nations' plan each of the one to six dispensaries would have a home base where marijuana could be delivered from other counties or communities that permit the cultivation of cannabis.
That home base would be located 1,500 feet from sensitive uses like schools, day cares, churches and similar locations.
The public wouldn’t be able to enter the building. And a wide range of regulations would make sure the property was secure and the product being delivered to residents was safe.
Maggard said he hopes to add rules that would make delivery vehicles anonymous and hash out a lot of other regulations to make sure the move is the right one for Kern County.
He has said in the past he wants to make sure doctors can’t just hand out medical marijuana cards.
County estimates indicate there are likely around 56,000 medical marijuana patients in Kern County.
Nations said under new state regulations doctors who don’t do a physical evaluation of an applicant and sign a certificate of need can be disciplined by state licensing boards.
But Nations said there is one issue that does offer the county pause about moving ahead.
The state originally planned to have a testing scheme for marijuana in place by Jan. 1 to make sure that toxic chemicals, fertilizers and other harmful substances were not in the product being sold to the public.
But Nations told supervisors that the three state agencies that will regulate cannabis have said they won’t have those testing regulations in place immediately.
“In 2018 cannabis will not be tested for certain chemicals as the program is being phased in,” Nations said.
Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said that is a concern.
But since 28 storefront medical marijuana shops will be operating under a one-year grace period, allowed so they can phase out their businesses, patients in Kern County won’t be without a source for cannabis.
“Perhaps waiting to implementing some of this (mobile marijuana) idea until after July 1, when the state has said that they will have testing in place, isn’t a bad idea,” she said.
No members of the public spoke in either support or opposition to the proposed mobile ordinance.
Which clearly was a problem for Supervisor Leticia Perez.
Perez was the only supervisor to vote against the commercial cannabis ban.
She asked why her peers on the board didn’t take up the mobile marijuana idea back in October when the board chambers were full of supporters and protesters and the public could have been more involved in vetting and commenting on the idea.
“I am pretty confused about why this issue was not addressed,” she said.
The other supervisors didn’t really address the question, instead saying they are interested in proceeding with a full study by the subcommittee.
“I’m cautiously hopeful that we can succeed in creating a process that is legitimate,” Gleason said. “I’m hopeful we can satisfy a legitimate need.”