Local News

Friday, Dec 21 2012 05:29 PM

Judge: County can enforce Measure G, for now

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A temporary restraining order blocking Kern County from enforcing Measure G or imposing fines against medical marijuana dispensaries for alleged violations was lifted Friday.

Kern County Superior Court Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II lifted the month-long injunction after considering two factors: whether the plaintiffs were likely to prevail at trial, and the harm the county would suffer if the injunction was granted. Citing numerous court cases as well as state law, Twisselman found it unlikely that the plaintiffs, a group of collectives represented by attorney Phil Ganong, would win based on their arguments that Measure G violates their due process and California's medical marijuana laws.

Under the measure, approved by voters in June, medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives are required to be located only on industrial land at least one mile away from schools, day care centers, churches, public parks or any other collective or cooperative.

As for harm, Twisselman said the nuisances associated with medical marijuana dispensaries would continue if unregulated. Reading from Measure G, Twisselman said medical marijuana dispensaries have serious secondary effects that can include criminal activity, loitering, increased traffic, noise, litter and loss of business for nearby businesses.

Twisselman said his ruling should not be taken in any way as an indicator of what the outcome would be at trial.

Ganong has said the measure makes it almost impossible for dispensaries to operate and is effectively a ban. Twisselman said in court Friday that the measure does not expressly prohibit dispensaries, and that there's one medical marijuana dispensary in the county already in compliance and two others in the process of getting approval.

"Clearly, I'm disappointed," Ganong said afterward. "But that's nothing new in this world."

Deputy County Counsel Charles Collins could not immediately be reached for comment following the hearing. Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner argued at a Board of Supervisors meeting in November that Measure G "is, in fact, consistent with state law" in that it imposes zoning restrictions without actually banning dispensaries altogether.

A procedural hearing before Twisselman is scheduled for Jan. 25. A trial date has not yet been set.

Ganong said the gist of the matter is whether Measure G is enforceable. He estimated in late November that it would take about eight months for the issue to be resolved.

The county began levying $50,000 fines on collectives and their landlords for Measure G violations in the beginning of November. Ganong said Twisselman's decision means those that closed up shop following Measure G will remain closed.

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