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Kern Supervisors Search For Ways To Regulate MMJ

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Kern County Supervisors will again struggle with the legal tangle over medical marijuana. Next week the board will review legal analysis from the County Counsel's office.

Just one year ago, Kern County enacted regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries -- and Eyewitness News has investigated how the ordinance worked. Now the county has to revisit the issue after all the medical marijuana dispensaries closed, either because of raids by federal agents or voluntarily.

Raids have shut down several dispensaries in Kern County, even though the facilities had county permits. The county ordinance allows six permitted dispensaries, and puts their regulation under the Sheriff's Department.

But that puts the Sheriff between state law and federal law. On Friday, Sheriff Donny Youngblood told Eyewitness News he stands by his recent decision not to issue any more permits. Youngblood says he won't have any more comment on the issue until the Supervisors take any further action.

Supervisors' Board Chairman Don Maben says he hopes some court rulings will finally clear up the conflict between state and federal law. Maben plans to ask county lawyers about that when the board reviews the legal options next Tuesday.

"What their prognosis is? The ramifications of these cases?" says Maben. "Because I don't want to go through a lot of regulation changes right now because we have these pending court cases."

Bill Connelly ran the Seven Seas medical marijuana dispensary that he's now shut down. He believes the state law should be upheld. Connelly says some people need medical marijuana.

'Now they have to go back to the street," Connelly told Eyewitness News. "Just because they're not in a wheelchair or on crutches doesn't mean they don't have afflictions."

As county lawyers read the state law, they say Kern County can not ban dispensaries and can not put a moratorium on the facilities.

But the City of Bakersfield won't allow any dispensaries. On Friday, City Attorney Ginny Gennaro told Eyewitness News because marijuana is illegal under federal law the city considers it not a permitted use.

The City of Taft has a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities, and Police Chief Burt Pumphrey stands by that position. On Friday, he told Eyewitness News he believes the state law only allows care-givers to provide medical marijuana to patients -- not dispensaries.

County lawyers say Kern could put dispensary regulation under a department other than the sheriff. Maben agrees -- if that department can really inspect and enforce county rules. "We need somebody to show up, whether it be our public health or environmental health department -- somebody like that," says Maben.

The report from the County Counsel's office also compares how other areas of California are dealing with the voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The lawyers' report says seven other counties have rules similar to Kern's current ordinance. They say five counties have enacted a moratorium on dispensaries and two have banned the facilities. Kern's attorneys say it appears the remaining 43 counties have taken no action.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors will review the legal analysis during their Tuesday morning session next week. The report also tells the board they have the option to wait to change the rules until after the pending court rulings.

Kern's lawyers also believe counties are not required to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries at all. But, Maben thinks the county should act -- he hopes for some legal direction.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing some substantive court decisions so maybe all of us can know where we're going in the future -- because I'm sure this issue's going to keep coming back and back."




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Website: Kern supervisors consider new ways to regulate medical marijuana
 
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