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Medical marijuana group files initiative, plans signature drive to overturn Kern County pot ban

A coalition of medical marijuana representatives and advocates have submitted a initiative to the County of Kern that would overturn a ban on cannabis businesses passed by Kern County supervisors last year.

Heather Epps and Jeff Jarvis, who have been active in the medical marijuana cause for years, signed the initiative.

It was written by local attorney Phil Ganong.

The group already have an initiative on the November ballot that will ask voters to overturn similar city of Bakersfield marijuana ban.

Now they will seek to gather 16,500 signatures, Epps said, to qualify the county initiative for the ballot as well.

“I’m excited. I want to have both of our intiatives on the ballot,” Epps said.

Ganong said the proposed county initiative would not allow adult use or “recreational” marijuana businesses.

Epps said she isn’t opposed to adult-use marijuana. But it is politically unfeasible.

“It won’t pass in Kern County,” she said.

County officials need to develop rules and regulation to handle medical marijuana first before adult-use businesses can be considered, Epps said.

County Counsel Mark Nations is looking over the Epps/Jarvis proposal and writing a title and summary for Kern County Elections.

A previous initiative proposed by attorney Ben Eilenberg of Riverside was set aside by Nations at this phase because it was troubled by inconsistencies.

Ganong said he wrote the more modest initiative with input from county officials and tailored it to be a moderate, controlled regulation of medical marijuana growing and selling operations.

If the initiative is approved by voters in November, Ganong said, it would allow dispensaries to operate in the county.

Existing dispensaries on a list of legal non-conforming businesss maintained by the county would be eligible to get a county and state permit to operate.

The county could require dispensaries that are currently clustered together to move no more than 1,000 feet away from each other.

Ganong said the rule would give the county the chance to break up clusters of the shops that currently exist.

In a cluster of shops, the shop that has been in operation for the shortest amount of time would be required to move first.

If the county determines a move is impractical, it can allow a cluster to remain in place, Ganong said.

“If an organization choses to move then they can move to an appropriately zoned area,” he said.

The proposed ordinance would also allow cultivation of marijuana both commercially and in personal home gardens.

Ganong said he wanted to “recognize we’re an agricultural community and cultivation is consistent with the lifestyle and ethic of Kern County.”

He knows that existing farming operations are concerned that if pesticides drifted into marijuana gardens there could be legal issues.

So he wrote into the initiative that new growing operations within a mile of an established farming operation will have to get a conditional use permit from the county.

The hearings on those permits would allow neighbors to come and raise concerns, he said.

“Personal cultivation would be allowed outdoors with appropriate security fencing. A maximum of six mature plants would be permitted for personal cultivation,” Ganong said.

Epps said she hopes to begin collecting signatures for the initiative within a week or two.

Supporters of the initiative will need to get more than 13,000 valid signatures from Kern County voters before mid-June to get on the November ballot.

SOURCE:BAKERSFIELD.COM

Medical marijuana group files initiative, plans signature drive to overturn Kern County pot ban

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