Kern County is known for its rich farming tradition, oil extraction and the “Bakersfield sound” made famous by the likes of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. It will now also be known as a big gaping marijuana-free expanse in California, which voted overwhelmingly for legalization nearly one year ago.
By a vote of 4-1, county supervisors last week prohibited commercial cannabis growing and retail sales. The supervisors cited the “destructive impact” the herb has had on local communities.
According to a report in the Bakersfield Californian:
Supervisor Mick Gleason also supported the ban, but cautioned people not to expect that it will remove marijuana from Kern County.
“The decision before this board is not whether you’re going to have marijuana in your neighborhood, because you are,” he said.
That ship sailed when Proposition 64 was approved by California voters in November, he said. Prop. 64 legalized adult recreational possession and use of marijuana throughout the state.
Kern County, at 8,142 square miles, is the state’s third largest in area; it is roughly the size of New Hampshire. There are 882,176 people living in the county, making it the 11th largest by population in the state.
Bakersfield, the county seat, has been shutting down existing medical marijuana dispensaries this year and the cost of the program has proven to be higher than anticipated. Bakersfield City Councilman Willie Rivera told the Californian:
“I’ve been making overtures at the last few [City Council] meetings on how ineffective I think the ban is. I think some of the answers I got from the staff really lend to that. They prove my point that the ban has been ineffective and we’ve got to find a better solution. It’s idiotic for the city to continue taking this position.”
According to Rivera, the city has been spending about $6,000 a month in attorney fees in its quest to eliminate dispensaries, which would come to $72,000 for the year. “This number does not include staff or the City Attorney’s time or the nominal cost of litigation.”
During the contentious county supervisors meeting, cannabis advocates suggested they may challenge the ruling.David Abbasi, a Bakersfield native and marijuana supporter, said that many of the marijuana claims espoused by the supervisors are outdated and the county needs to remember it has been down this road before. “We are ready to respond with a legal challenge” to the ban, he warned.