Local Politics

Friday, Nov 23 2012 05:26 PM

Attorney: Fines frozen by Measure G injunction

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

It's difficult to say exactly what will happen Dec. 21 when the county argues why a restraining order on Measure G should be lifted, but local attorney Philip Ganong was cautiously optimistic for his clients Friday.

"My hope and belief is that (Kern County Superior Court Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman) continues the injunction," Ganong said.

Ganong represents several medical marijuana dispensaries in a lawsuit against Kern County, arguing Measure G violates their due process and California's medical marijuana laws.

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

Backers said the measure was needed to combat nuisances caused by the operations.

On Wednesday, Twisselman signed a temporary restraining order blocking the county from enforcing Measure G or imposing fines against the pot shops for alleged violations.

The measure makes it almost impossible for dispensaries to operate and is effectively a ban, Ganong said. It leaves dispensaries with virtually nowhere to go and no option but to shut down.

"You can go to Mars and the zoning allows that," he said.

The county began levying $50,000 fines on collectives and their landlords for Measure G violations in the beginning of November. Ganong said that, as far as he knows, no one has yet paid a fine, and they won't have to as long as the injunction is in effect and if the measure is defeated in court.

He estimated it will take about eight months for the issue to be resolved. In the meantime, Ganong said it would be risky for the operators of dispensaries that have closed to reopen because if they lose in court, they'll just have to shut down again.

Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner could not be reached for comment Friday; county offices were closed as an extension of the Thanksgiving holiday. She argued at a Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this month that Measure G "is, in fact, consistent with state law" in that it imposes zoning restrictions without actually banning dispensaries altogether.

Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard said Friday the judge's restraining order wasn't unexpected, and he's still hopeful the measure will go back into effect.

Heather Epps, president of the medical marijuana advocacy group Kern Citizens for Patient Rights, said she was unfamiliar with Wednesday's restraining order, but believes it's just a matter of time before marijuana is legalized in California.

She said it's a civil rights issue, and if Colorado and Washington can do it, so can California.

"It's not going to go away," Epps said of the issue. "We're not going to stop smoking pot."

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