Banned pot shops still operating, worrying residents

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The city has banned medical marijuana dispensaries, but some are still running and raising more concerns for some.

Two shops on Wilson Road have raised the hackles of an Eyewitness News viewer, worried about proximity to schools and blatant advertising.

On Friday morning, a man waving a very large sign stood at the corner of Wilson Road and South Real. He was promoting Vital Care Treatment, a dispensary located in a corner strip mall.

"Don't you have to ask to film me?" he asked an Eyewitness News photographer.

But, he was in a public place, and no permission is required. He pushed his sign in front of the camera, got on his cellphone, and then went back into the dispensary.

A number of people went in and out, but no one from the dispensary would answer a reporter's questions.

A woman who identified herself as Cher said she was heading in to get her medicine.

"I have cancer and there's not really nothing they can do about it, but make me comfortable," she said. Cher said she just got out of the hospital two weeks ago, and was doing a little better.

The other nearby dispensary is also on Wilson Road, and there's a big sign for "GPA" on the corner, and an "open" sign in a window. A man who walked out with a small paper bag said he needs the marijuana to deal with pain from a severe back injury.

From the Bakersfield City Attorney's office, Richard Iger told Eyewitness News they're aware of these two shops.

"We've been monitoring them," he said. "The plan is sometime this year we're going to start enforcement action, and we should have more direction from the city council which ones we're going to target first within the next 30 days or so."

It was last summer that the City Council voted for an ordinance that says medical marijuana dispensaries are not an allowed use in any zone in the city. In April, the city won a legal challenge to that rule.

The viewer worried about the shops on Wilson told Eyewitness News they're near schools. Checking on that, we found Seibert School is a half mile away, and Stine Elementary is about three-quarters of a mile from the dispensaries.

Iger sympathizes with the viewer's concerns. He says they want to know about worries like this, but the city's rule says the shops are not allowed anywhere.

"The schools don't really matter in our analysis, but if people have concerns they should let us know and the police department, because that could possibly be another whole crime anyway," Iger said.

At the GPA dispensary, a man who came out said they'd checked where schools are located, and disputed any are that close. He also said their facility set up in that location about a month ago. He wouldn't make any more comment, but said the owner would contact Eyewitness News, we haven't heard from him yet.

Iger said the dispensaries seem to close down in spots, and then others will open. The city knows of about 20 running right now.

The viewer who contacted Eyewitness News said she particularly didn't care for the man spinning the ad sign at Wilson and South Real.

"I'm going through the list and highlighting ones that are more problems than others," Iger said. And, he pays attention to things like the viewer's concern about the shop with the big advertising.

"That kind of information helps us to determine which ones will get closed down sooner." Iger said.