Feb 222012

Medical marijuana advocates who blocked a Kern County ban on storefront collectives with a signature drive last year vowed Tuesday to fight a very restrictive ordinance sent to the voters by supervisors.

“The campaign will go forward full force,” said Heather Epps, president of Kern Citizens for Patient Rights, the advocacy group that gathered the more than 17,350 signatures needed to overturn a complete ban supervisors had approved on collectives and cooperatives anywhere in unincorporated Kern County.

Supervisors repealed that first ordinance, which they passed in August 2011, to clear the way for voters on June 5 to consider a tough land-use ordinance that would sharply limit the location of medical marijuana storefronts.

Four of the five supervisors supported the motion, James Burger reports in the Bakersfield Californian.

The alternative ordinance would allow storefronts only in service or heavy industrial zones that are at least one mile away from schools, day cares, churches, public parks and other dispensaries.

There are about 9,200 acres in unincorporated Kern County that fit that bill, said Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt — less than 1 percent of the area in Kern County.

Where exactly those spots are, the county wouldn’t say.

County Counsel Theresa Goldner, who has said there are areas where dispensaries could locate close to urban areas, refused Tuesday to release county documents used to develop the ordinance.

And members of the public were told they would have to dig the information out of county mapping systems and public records.

Jeff Jarvis of the Kern County Medicinal Collective said that medical marijuana advocates used a democratic process to block the ban supervisors previously passed. But he said the ordinance supervisors are sending to the voters was drafted by the same people who sought to ban his non-profit business and others.

“Now we’re faced with a whole new democratic processs,” he said. “Unfortunately what (voters are) being asked to vote on is another one-sided thing.”

Supervisors said, however, that sending the issue to the voters is the right way to determine if the majority of the county supports limiting where these storefronts can be placed.

Ed Sulla of Bakersfield NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, said the county is trying to sideline patients who have tried to do the right thing, have gone to traditional doctors, tried a number of options and gone to marijuana as their only solution.

“It seems that today’s revisiting of this issue has been focused on ‘How can we make it harder for them,'” Sulla said. “We stood up back in August and September. We got more signatures than were required.”

Marijuana advocates say they will do it again.

Supervisor Ray Watson was the only supervisor who voted against the motion to put the alternative ordinance on the ballot.

He wanted voters to have a shot at approving the outright ban as well.

“Let it go on the ballot and let the rest of the voters say what they want to do,” Watson said.

The county has about 900,000 people, he said, and the majority of them haven’t had a chance to speak their democratic mind on the issue.

Kern County will spend an estimated $103,000 to put the proposed ordinance on the ballot.

It is “the cost of democracy,” Supervisor Mike Maggard said. “It’s the cost of letting all the people say what they want to do.”

If the ordinance is passed by voters it would likely set up a mad scramble by existing collectives — estimated at about 40 in number — to find a new spot to locate.

Goldner said that if the new ordinance is approved, dispensaries that do not fit into the new rules at their current location would have 10 days to close down or be prosecuted.

At the planning department, Oviatt said, applicants would have to go through a basic approval process and be cleared to use the property as a storefront medical marijuana operation.

But each approval would create a one-mile dead zone around that location.

The first applicant who is deemed complete would claim the turf and anyone else who comes in after that would need to be one mile from the location, Oviatt said.

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