BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Bakersfield attorney Gabriel Godinez's prescription for the chronic pain Kern County's experiencing from its money-hemorrhaging hospital is simple: medical marijuana.
Godinez represents Natural Treatment, one of 10 medical marijuana dispensaries on unincorporated county land which county attorneys have said became illegal in February when a Kern County Superior Court judge invalidated Measure G.
He met Thursday morning with Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason, Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner and Deputy County Counsel Devin Brown, an author of Measure G, to propose a way for Natural Treatment -- and possibly other dispensaries -- to remain open.
Measure G, the county's 2012 voter-approved ordinance, limited where storefront marijuana operations may locate on unincorporated land.
Godinez proposed his client make a yearly payment of 25 percent of a Kern County Sheriff's deputy's annual salary -- that percentage ranging from $11,307 to $19,356 -- as well as a $100 "daily" payment to the county to remain open.
Other elements of the attorney's proposal included limiting his client's operating hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., having it provide 24-hour exterior security, diminishing signage visibility from the street -- and requiring dispensaries be located at least 800 feet from schools or churches.
If the county agrees, Godinez said the idea could be a much-needed money-maker -- considering Kern Medical Center lost $3.4 million in February, is on track for a $30 million loss for the fiscal year ending in June and is girding for layoffs.
"It's no secret that the county is hurting money-wise. KMC -- we've seen the news reports," Godinez said. "Our proposal was twofold. What we would do is to self-regulate and minimize exposure, and find a way to assist with county coffers, with fees and taxes."
The county's position is Measure G's invalidation leaves no legal way for marijuana dispensaries to operate in unincorporated Kern County -- because when supervisors sent Measure G to voters two years ago, they also voted to eliminate all past ordinances allowing collectives.
Goldner and Brown said Kern County is not about to agree to Godinez's proposal.
"None of Mr. Godinez's suggestions is being considered by the county and in fact the county counsel's instructions from the Board of Supervisors are to proceed with lawsuits to shut dispensaries down," Goldner said.
"The county will be filing a series of lawsuits against dispensaries in the unincorporated area in the county of Kern to seek injunctions to shut them down and seek penalties against them," she continued, noting the penalties for remaining open could be in the "tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars."
County lawyers mailed out cease-and-desist letters April 9 to all dispensaries on unincorporated land, Brown said.
"It's our expectation his client comply with this immediately," Brown said.
Godinez offered another perspective.
"No one's going to win in a lawsuit. People have spoken. Measure G passed," Godinez said, highlighting what he said is a groundswell of support for legalization. "I'm trying to look at how can we do it right."