Local Politics

Monday, Jul 29 2013 09:00 PM

Referendum on city pot dispensary ban goes up in smoke

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Opponents of Bakersfield's new ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits failed Monday in their attempt to force a referendum on the issue.

The Bakersfield City Council approved the ordinance at its June 26 meeting and it will take effect Thursday.

Financed by a political action committee calling itself Patients for Compassionate Use Policies, organizers had until 5 p.m. Monday to collect at least 15,326 signatures from registered Bakersfield voters and deliver them to the City Clerk's office.

"No phone calls, no emails. Nothing. I don't think they're going to file," said City Clerk Roberta Gafford. "If they've had questions on something, although we don't give advice, we have a decent rapport with them. The only thing we did agree on was that they would call before they turned them in."

Dege Coutee, a spokeswoman for the organizers, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Turning in the signatures would have stopped the ordinance from becoming effective.

The city council then would have had the choice of repealing it or putting the issue on a future ballot -- following the footsteps of Kern County two years ago.

In September 2011, activists with Kern Citizens For Patient Rights gathered 26,335 signatures, forestalling ordinance G-8191 banning storefront medical marijuana collectives and the sale of edible marijuana products. Kern County voters, however, ended up approving strict regulation of dispensaries last year.

The group fighting the county needed to collect at least 17,350 signatures to stop the ordinance throughout unincorporated areas of Kern. This time, gatherers in Bakersfield had to collect 2,024 fewer signatures than that.

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