Kern County Medical Marijuana, Measure G (June 2012)

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A Kern County Medical Marijuana, Measure G ballot question was on the June 5, 2012 ballot for voters in Kern County, where it was approved.[1] Measure G was later invalidated in court on February 14, 2014.[2]

A "yes" vote on Measure G was a vote to uphold a county ordinance passed in August 2011 that placed new restrictions on the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. A "no" vote was a vote against the new restrictions.

Supporters of medical marijuana argued that the new restrictions were so burdensome that medical marijuana dispensaries in the county would be forced to close. They started a petition for a veto referendum. Supporters of the new restrictions, such as Sheriff Donny Youngblood, argued that the way that medical marijuana dispensaries operated in the county was a "sham" and a cover for recreational use of marijuana. Measure G was proposed by the county as a compromise with dispensary advocates.[3]

At the time of the vote on Measure G, about two dozen medical marijuana dispensaries were operating in Kern County.[4]

In the midst of the campaign over Measure G, federal authorities began a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in California, including in Kern County. They had the authority to do this because, in spite of the fact that medical marijuana is legal in California, all marijuana is federally illegal in the United States due to Proposition 215. U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner initiated the crackdown, saying, "Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves...It's not about medicine, it's about profits."[5]

Aftermath

On February 14, 2014, Kern County Judge Kenneth Twissleman struck down Measure G because of a lawsuit filed by advocates of marijuana shops who objected to the restrictions in Measure G. The court found, in September 2013, that the county failed to do an environmental review before sending Measure G to the voters, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. In that 2013 hearing, the court required the county to come up with a plan to conduct an environmental review. When that plan was presented to the court in 2014, it was found unacceptable, and Judge Twissleman ruled Measure G to be invalid.[2]

County lawyers are saying that Measure G being overturned means that an original county ordinance outlawing dispensary activity takes over, meaning all dispensaries are prohibited in the county. If this is true, the case would seem to have backfired on plaintiffs, who would see medical marijuana restrictions go from strict to prohibitory. Lawyers on behalf of the medical marijuana dispensaries say that they disagree with county about the legal effects of Measure G being overturned, expecting more arguments in court.[3]

On February 17, 2014, Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner said, "Without Measure G, the county can enforce zoning ordinances, which don't allow dispensaries. Without Measure G, dispensaries are no longer listed as permitted, or allowed." Goldner went on to say, "The court ruling presents a situation where there are no winners. A popular ballot measure was struck down, at the same time medical marijuana dispensaries are no longer a legally zoned use."[3]

Armando Espinoza said, "The county basically lost, because they failed to do an environmental report. But, they still came out saying that somehow they won, which doesn't make sense to me."[3]

The court ruling is being appealed by the Highway 99 collective.[6]

Election results

Measure G
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 69,530 69.05%
No31,16830.95%
These final results are from the Kern County elections office.

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Measure G: "Shall a County zoning ordinance be adopted that amends Title 19 of the Ordinance Code to restrict the location of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Medium (M-2 PD) and Heavy (M-3 PD) Industrial Districts and to require them to maintain a distance of at least one (1) mile from all schools, daycare centers, parks, churches, and other Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, and to require them to operate in compliance with development and performance standards?"[7]

Support

  • Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was a leading supporter of Measure G.
  • The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the medical marijuana restriction ordinance that was the subject of Measure G. Karen Goh, one of the supervisors, said, "Measure G provides a balance making sure that patients have access to medical marijuana while making sure at the same time our children are protected and businesses are protected."[4] She also said, "Out of 23 Kern County dispensaries, there have been 59 separate incidents including 14 burglaries, child endangerment, assault and robbery."[4]
  • Tom Alexander, a Bakersfield resident, said, "Approving Measure G sends a clear signal to our county's pot dispensaries and collectives that we side with the federal government on this issue, and that we care about the safety and well-being of our children and grandchildren. Saying yes to Measure G also sends the correct message to federal lawbreakers that Kern County cities and towns will not give in to the Jack City mentality that pervades other cities."[8]

Opposition

  • Robert Wade, a "narcotics officer turned entrepreneur," who ran a dispensary in the county and who helped spearhead the petition drive to collect signatures to qualify Measure G for the ballot.[1]
  • Phil Ganong, a local attorney. He said, "It will effectively shut everything down, which will effectively drive all patient demands to organized crime."[5] He also said, ""It will probably remove about 500 jobs from the county. It will remove tax revenues from the county and the state. It will also lead to the decay of neighborhoods where these patient associations have located and actually provided security and rehabilitating the buildings."[4]
  • The editorial board of the Bakersfield Californian urged a "no" vote on Measure G, saying, "So much is in flux at the federal, state and local levels that California might not be able to fulfill the original intent of the Compassionate Use Act for years, if ever. The current system of collectives and storefront dispensaries is rife with problems, but at least it honors the law's intent -- helping cancer patients and others who live with chronic pain. By contrast, Measure G would implement an effective ban. The county has not made clear what pressing need is addressed by Measure G that justifies making it harder for patients to alleviate their pain, other than satisfying the ideological leanings of a select few county officials."[9]

Dispensary history in Kern

  • 2006: Kern County enacted an ordinance that allowed for six licensed dispensaries.
  • 2007: The terms of the six licensed dispensaries were extended.
  • 2009: The 2006 ordinance, limiting the number of dispensaries in the county, was repealed. It was replaced with an ordinance with the minimal restriction that any dispensaries must be at least 1,000 feet from any school.
  • 2010: The Kern County Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance banning any additional dispensaries.
  • 2011: In August, the Kern County Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance saying that a maximum of 12 marijuana plants could be grown on any parcel of land. That was adopted as an emergency ordinance. A second ordinance was adopted that was the subject of Measure G.[5]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

Measure G was on the ballot because people in the county who objected to a medical marijuana dispensary restriction ordinance enacted by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in August 2011 collected signatures to force the new ordinance to a vote of the people via the veto referendum process.[1]

About 17,000 signatures were collected to force Measure G to a vote.

References