Bakersfield takes more action to shut down pot shops

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) City officials are putting more pressure on so-called pot shops to shut down. A new round of warning letters has gone out, this time telling both the landlords and operators they have to close. Officials say 11 have closed since a ban went into effect, but 15 appear to still be running.

Letters dated Oct. 3 say: "the City demands that you immediately CEASE AND DESIST" operations."

The sentence is in bold print, and the letter continues that failure to stop operation may result in the city taking legal action.

"We're asking them to close up shop," Associate City Attorney Richard Iger told Eyewitness News on Wednesday. "The letter says it's not an allowed use within the city limits."

In late June, the City Council voted for a ban that simply says a medical marijuana dispensary is a use that's "prohibited within any zone district."

At that time, Iger says the city knew of 26 facilities. Letters went out to property owners in mid-August letting them know about the new city ordinance.

Iger said their office heard back from some landlords who said they were starting to evict the medical marijuana facilities. In other cases, they've heard back from attorneys.

As for results from the new and stronger letters? "I think it's too early to tell," Iger said.

The city's list of dispensaries includes how many times there have been "calls to service." Iger said that's a report to the police department, which could be for a number of different situations, from a traffic stop, to a call at the dispensary, to something happening nearby.

The Creative Alternative dispensary on 34th Street shows the most calls at 19. Eyewitness News checked that location on Wednesday, and a woman came out to say we had to leave the parking lot. It appeared to be busy, and several men going inside said they didn't want to comment.

But, John Dixon strongly defends the use of medical marijuana.

"I think it would be wrong to ban marijuana," he said. "Because people like me who have two heart surgeries and two brain surgeries, it's good for me."

Another man who didn't give his name said he he doesn't think a ban is right. He also says people with health problems need the medication, and the dispensaries provide a safe place to get it.

At a dispensary on 27th Street, a woman said they were putting in more security. She told Eyewitness News they'd gotten the letters from the city.

"We're not looking to shut down" she said.

At another dispensary on Chester Avenue, a man said they had no comment. He came back out a bit later to say their lawyer said we had to leave the parking lot.

No one answered the door at a dispensary on Montclair. A call to the number on their sign was answered by a woman who said she just schedules appointments for the doctor who makes medical marijuana recommendations.

A dispensary on Monterey is one which the city says has changed its location. They also said there was no one available to comment on the ban, or getting letters from the city.

Iger said the city will see what response they get to this second letter, and then decide what to do next. In the meantime, he says Bakersfield Police are investigating the facilities.

The attorney also says his office is getting complaints from the public about the facilities, and they use that input to gauge which are the worst. He says the city wants that feedback.

"Please, just call our office and give us any complaints that you have," Iger said.

The city does face a legal challenge to their ban on dispensaries, and Iger says that's just at the very beginning stage. He argues the City Council voted for the ordinance after the state Supreme Court issued a decision that cities have the authority to ban them.