To Ban or Not to Ban? That Is the Question.

By Coral Ceiley

Has anybody seen my copy of Reefer Madness? I promised to loan it to the Kern County Board of Supervisors tonight for a special showing before the Board votes on the following options regarding marijuana sales:

Option A – ban all “pot shops” in unincorporated parts of Kern County.

Option B – regulate the sales of marijuana at “pot shops.”

The funny thing is that there is already a ban on “pot shops” in every community in Kern County. However, according to Sheriff Donny Youngblood, handing the dispensary owners an official-looking piece of paper did not result in the closure of the store-front businesses as the public was led to believe it would. In fact, the number of illegal dispensaries in Kern County today is estimated at 120 with approximately 22 (down from 60) in the city limits.

The most recent legislation designed to put some muscle behind the county’s ban was a $1000 a day penalty for the property owners who rent to collectives and the dispensary’s owners. According to a recent environmental impact report approved by the Board of Supervisors, a task force to enforce the marijuana ban will require an annual investment of between $1.5 million and $2.7 million. Sheriff Youngblood is passionate about eliminating these “pot shops” because they are merely “fronts for gangs and other criminal organizations.”

A couple of weeks ago, city code enforcement officers and Bakersfield Police Department officers conducted two days of raids on central Bakersfield dispensaries. There were 20 arrests; 1,200 pounds of marijuana was seized, the businesses were closed, and some were red-tagged. 19 of the 20 people arrested were charged with misdemeanors and posted bail.

Sadly, the twentieth defendant, who was found to be in possession of 15 grams of rock cocaine and four firearms, locked himself into a back room and took his own life – a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hasn’t there been enough pain?

In the name of what’s right and holy in the world… let’s stop the madness. Let’s stop the reefer madness! Marijuana is a medicinal herb that has been used for pain relief and numerous other purposes by Native Americans and many other cultures for centuries. Why the big stink? Why the financial burden on the community? Why not flip this around and start receiving tax revenue? In 2014, the state took in $50 million in sales taxes from 1623 medical marijuana dispensaries across California.

Maybe Sheriff Youngblood needs to actually get to know some dispensary owners and not just assume all dispensaries are fronts for organized crime. Or we could all step back in time… I hear they’re showing Reefer Madness at the Board Meeting tonight.


One Drop Collective was shut down in Kern County. Photo by Henry A. Barrios/Californian, via