The Kern County Board of Supervisors will soon consider a recommendation that could bring medical cannabis dispensaries back to unincorporated county areas.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, the Planning and Natural Resources Department is scheduled to recommend that supervisors direct county staff to draft a medical marijuana ordinance that would be placed on the March 3, 2020, ballot.

The ordinance would be crafted as an alternative to a community-led voter initiative that has already qualified for the ballot. In September, medical marijuana advocates David Abbasi and Cecilia Latu submitted the initiative that would allow any dispensary that was open before Jan. 1, 2018, to reopen, essentially overturning a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Kern County that fully went into effect May 24.

Abbasi said at the time the initiative collected about 17,000 signatures from county residents, which allowed it to qualify.

In a letter to supervisors provided in the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, the Planning Department said Abbasi and Latu’s initiative would allow too many dispensaries to open within the county relative to the county's population.

“It is essentially a way for all of the dispensaries that have been closed down in the last 10 years to automatically reopen,” Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said in a phone interview with The Californian.

The letter said Abbasi and Latu’s initiative would allow for more than 60 dispensaries to reopen. Oviatt noted that the initiative allowed for no public input and no additional regulation.

In its letter, the Planning Department estimated that a more “appropriate” number of dispensaries would be between 20 and 30, although the report recommended placing no arbitrary limit on the amount.

Abbasi disputed the Planning Department's characterization of his ballot measure, saying about 20 dispensaries would likely return if it passed.

"We have a very well-thought-out ballot measure that was drafted by a professional law firm," he said, adding that dispensaries would have to meet zoning requirements and provide proof that they were legally operating in order to receive a permit.

Supervisor Zack Scrivner made the initial referral to the Planning Department on May 21 to provide a status update on dispensary closures and consider alternatives to the Abbasi and Latu initiative.

Scrivner did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.

Although consumption remains legal statewide, supervisors voted to ban local sales of marijuana products in October 2017, allowing about 30 medical dispensaries to remain open until May 24 to recoup business costs.

The new ordinance would change course for the county.

The board letter noted that county staffers have consistently received public comments, as well as supervisors’ concerns, for the patients who use medical cannabis.

“Given the feedback that we’ve gotten from the community, it seems appropriate to have the board consider putting an alternative initiative on the ballot and letting the voters decide,” Oviatt said.

The proposed ordinance would include 1,000-foot setbacks from schools, public parks, libraries and other areas where families tend to gather, as well as city limits.

A tax of $50 for each $1,000 of gross income revenue would also be part of the proposal, according to the letter, and dispensaries would need to obtain a state license.

A public comment period would be provided during a hearing on the ordinance if supervisors approve the recommendation on Tuesday.

The Planning Department said supervisors should wait no later than September before holding the hearing on placing the new ordinance on the ballot.

The final date an item may be placed on the March ballot is Nov. 19, the letter said.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(9) comments

GetReal2

Lord, please give these Courageous Supervisors the Strength to Exercise their Pioneering Leadership Abilities by punting to yet another Ballot Initiative.

cbroussard

Alcohol is the major problem for driving impairment, let's focus on all the deaths for drunk driving in this city. Let's also Ban the liquor stores!!!

REMUDA

More . . . ? --- https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/marijuana-mental-illness-violence/ ---- "Even cannabis advocates, like Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledge that they have always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users." ----- 'After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.†Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.†' ------ "Cannabis users today are also consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—it contains. In the 1970s, the last time this many Americans used cannabis, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques—as well as to a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC. Think of the difference between near-beer and a martini, or even grain alcohol, to understand the difference." -------- ". . . research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis."

REMUDA

Zack Scrivner, David Couch & the remaining BOS Members who are allowed to vote on (medical) cannabis . . . --- Gentlemen, ---- "For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India. Yet 20 years ago, the United States moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates." ----- "For example, last September, police in Longmont, Colorado, arrested Daniel Lopez for stabbing his brother Thomas to death as a neighbor watched. Daniel Lopez had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating†with marijuana, according to an arrest affidavit." ----- (https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/marijuana-mental-illness-violence/)

The Jackal

No One Believes your lies. Studies have shown that cannabinoids can be used to treat many illnesses and typically users are less violent. Unlike alcohol.

Nevermind

Great analysis......cannabis causes violence and mental illness....geez Your analysis based on some schizophrenic stabbing someone had about as much merit as the following.... Breathing air causes heroin addiction.....because studies show that 100% of all heroin addicts breathe air.

The Jackal

There goes the County trying to split the vote and interfere with the will of the voters again. Just to create another Monopoly like Measure G from 2012. It's not legal for the County to put forward their own ballot measure now, as it would be in direct conflict and competition with the people's ballot measure. That would have a chilling effect in legal terms, on the people's right to petition and initiatives.

GetReal2

Jesus turned water into wine, not joints. No God fearing territory ought to allow the sale of Marijuana, only alcohol, provided liquor stores are mostly confined to poor neighborhoods.

The Jackal

I get it you're being sarcastic and satirical. That's funny.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.