Kern County and Bakersfield at Odds Over Marijuana

Cannabis is a polarizing issue. And nowhere is that truer than in California’s Central Valley, where the issue has now opened a rift between Kern County officials and their counterparts in the City of Bakersfield.

It’s a rift that is becoming increasingly public. As the Californian reports, Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan “portrayed the county as being willing to sell out county citizens in exchange for millions of dollars in tax revenue from pot sales” in a recent video.

The fissure between the two sides was encapsulated by dueling votes held last week. Just one day after the City Council approved a blanket ban on commercial cultivation and sales in the city, the Kern County Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors give the green light to recreational pot. That rubbed Councilwoman Sullivan the wrong way.

“I feel our entire county should be in favor of the ban. We should be standing together,” she said. “I think (having different approaches) is going to make things more difficult. It’s going to confuse people. We are a conservative county, and we should recognize the dangers of marijuana.”

But her detractors say it has nothing to do with being a conservative county. The city has had a ban on medical pot shops since 2013 for instance and has almost nothing to show for it.

“What we have right now is a perfect environment for criminal enterprises,” Supervisor Leticia Perez said. “We have really struggled to rein this stuff in.”

There are less than three months left before Prop. 64 fully kicks in, forcing tough decisions at the local level. It doesn’t look like either side will be backing down any time soon.


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