|Stacy McGee, left, Destiny Joy Brewer, right, and others deliver boxes of signatures on September 8 to the Kern County Elections Division challenging the county’s new ordinance outlawing storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives.
Here’s how it’s done. Medical marijuana patient advocates have won a big victory in Kern County, California. Opponents of a county ordinance that would outlaw medicinal cannabis dispensaries and the sale of edible marijuana products have blocked the law from taking effect.
The Kern County Elections Division on Wednesday verified that the Kern Citizens for Patients’ Rights had collected 17,350 valid signatures from register voters in the county, reports James Burger at The Bakersfield Californian
. That number is required to block the ban on dispensaries.
Elections workers counted the 17,350th signature around 11:37 a.m. on Wednesday, September 21, and stopped counting. About 2,662 of the original 26,326 signatures submitted remained uncounted, a cushion of support, as it turned out, that the Kern Citizens group didn’t need.
|Turn To 23
|Heather Epps, Kern County Citizens for Patients’ Rights: “I’m ecstatic”
”I’m ecstatic,” said Heather Epps, president of Kern Citizens for Patients’ Rights, moments after the news broke. Epps said she was anticipating a jubilant group meeting Wednesday evening.
“I’m excited to tell everyone the news,” she said. “This is awesome.”
The effort to block the county ban was successful because people who had been hesitant to be publicly active were motivated by the county supervisors’ decision to ban dispensaries, according to Epps.
“There’s a lot of people who were like me who were afraid to step forward,” she said. “People are tired of being told what to do — being told do what I say, not what I do.”
Now the ball is back in the court of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, which approved the county dispensary ban unanimously on August 9. Supervisors will take up the issue and try to decide how to go forward at their meeting next Tuesday.
They have the option of repealing their own ordinance at that meeting, or they can vote to place the question of whether dispensaries should be banned before county voters in either a special election or during the June 2012 primary election.
If supervisors opt to send the issue to the voters, their ban would remain frozen until the election, and dispensaries would remain legal in the county’s jurisdiction — generally unincorporated areas outside city limits.
When supervisors on August 9 passed a 12-plant limit on medical marijuana cultivation, they used an emergency ordinance to create the law, causing it to go into effect immediately and sparking a wave of raids on marijuana growers by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies.
That law has been challenged by a lawsuit and a preliminary ruling on whether to suspend that ordinance during trial is expected from Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe in the near future.
The supervisors, also on August 9, approved the ban on dispensaries and the sale of marijuana, but that rule didn’t go into effect until a month after the vote.
That gave medical marijuana advocates time to band together and gather signatures for a referendum that would take the issue to Kern County voters.
They registered 5,933 new voters and raced to collect the 17,350 signatures needed.
On the afternoon of September 8, one day before the ordinance would have taken effect, representatives of the Kern County Citizens for Patients’ Rights brought 26,326 signatures against the ban to the Kern County Elections office and submitted them to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Kathleen Krause.
That effectively, though temporarily, stopped the ban from taking effect. Elections workers then spent the next two weeks verifying the validity of the signatures, a process which ended yesterday.