|Courtesy Craig Beresh|
|Craig Beresh, Randy Welty and Phil Ganong give last-minute instructions and prepare to turn in 26,000 signatures collected in 30 days to reverse the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Kern County, California. “We then started the victory party!” Beresh said.|
It’s a huge victory for the medical marijuana community in Kern County, California. Cannabis proponents have met the deadline to gather enough signatures to block a county ordinance that would have banned dispensaries.
A ban on storefront sales of medical marijuana, approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors on August 9, would have gone into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, reports Mark Christian at Turn To 23 in Bakersfield.
Late Thursday afternoon, Kern Citizens For Patient Rights marched to the Kern County Board of Elections to turn in the signatures needed to protest and block the ordinance, about one hour before they were due.
|Photo: Turn To 23|
|Heather Epps: “This is democracy at its best”|
”We have enough validated signatures to stop the county from banning the collectives and edibles,” said medical marijuana advocate Heather Epps. “It has been a victory for the people of Kern County. This is democracy at its best.”
Passage of the dispensary ban ordinance galvanized the marijuana community, Epps said, turning a loose group of competitors into “friends and allies.”
Epps said the collectives have repeatedly called for comprehensive regulation of how they operate in Kern County, but the Board of Supervisors instead responded with an outright ban.
“California patients are sick of being persecuted,” Craig Beresh, director of the California Cannabis Coalition told Toke of the Town Friday morning. “There are strong medical marijuana communities out there and we (the people) are now standing up and fighting back for our rights!
|Courtesy Craig Beresh|
|Outstanding in his field. Crain Beresh, California Cannabis Coalition: “California patients are sick of being persecuted”|
”The People of the State of California want medical marijuana,” Beresh told us. “This is still a democracy, and if instituting the will of the People requires referendums, initiatives, and the recall of public officials up and down the state, it will be done.”
To block the ordinance, the group needed 17,350 signatures. Proponents say they got that many, with some to spare: 26,335 signatures were turned into to Kathleen Krause, clerk of the Board of Supervisors, at about 4 p.m. on Thursday, reports James Burger at The Californian.
“Once their petition is filed and they have a sufficient number of signatures that the ordinance would be automatically suspended until the Board of Supervisors decided how they want to proceed,” said Theresa A. Goldner, attorney for the county.
A team of about 80 medical marijuana supporters spent a month collecting more than 20,000 signatures after the Board of Supervisors voted in August to force dispensaries to close.
“The feel we got on the street is that people support this, however there was some opposition as well,” said petition manager Brian Schrier. “Even the law enforcement supported our efforts, as far as letting us do what we have the legal right to do by working on private property where the public is invited to gather our signatures.”
The Kern County Election Department had confirmed the number of signatures turned in by 5 p.m., but hasn’t validated them yet. That task is expected to take until sometime next week.
Rhea said her staff will work through the weekend to finish filing the 5,933 new voter registration cards submitted by Kern Citizens For Patient Rights in the past three weeks. Once that’s done, maybe by Monday or Tuesday, election workers will begin checking every signature submitted to make sure they match up with a registered Kern County voter, she said.
“We are going to be doing a 100 percent verification of all the signatures,” said Karen Rhea of the election department. “The elections code does not require that we do 100 percent verification, unless it meets the threshold of a random sample, but we are going to do that so everything is open and clear and everyone is confident in the results.”
If the signatures hold up, the ordinance will be suspended. The board can then either choose to repeal the ordinance, or put it to the voters to decide, either in a special election or in the June 2012 primary.
Rhea said the last special election in Kern County — for a state budget measure in 2009 — cost $1.4 million to hold. In contrast, adding the medical marijuana referendum to the June 2012 primary ballot would only cost from $50,000 to $100,000, according to Rhea.