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Keeping it legal: An overview of marijuana rules in Kern County

Photo: Heath Alseike / CC BY 2.0 via MGN, file

So, you want to use marijuana, but you don't want to break the law? Here's the straight dope on pot rules in Kern County.

WHERE CAN I GET IT LEGALLY?

If you just want to get high, the answer is somewhere other than here. There are no legal recreational pot shops anywhere in Kern County.

If you're using it as medicine and want to follow the letter of the law, you also have to go somewhere else to get it. But that could change soon.

There are 28 shops in Kern County (19 of them are in the Bakersfield area) that got grandfathered in after the county's ban. These are shops that meet a list of requirements, including that they existed prior to the county's moratorium.

The full list can be seen below.

As of Jan. 4, they are still illegal in the eyes of the state. But they have a pathway to legal status that all other local shops do not. This grants them temporary local immunity, meaning the sheriff's department is not going to be shutting them down.

The state still could.

"We're in a transition," said Lorelei Oviatt, the county's planning director. "The ordinance allows them to operate for a year if they follow some rules and they get a license from the state."

But to get a state license, they have to prove they're in compliance with all local rules set by county supervisors. Oviatt oversees their journey toward compliance. Right now, she said all 28 still have work to do.

"We have many of these operations that have made improvements to their place with no building permit," she said. "That's not safe for the public. We don't know what kind of electrical hookups they have, we don't know what's going on in there."

Once the 28 shops on the list get their building permits and get Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, which Oviatt predicts they all will, Kern will give them the green light to get a state license from the Bureau of Cannabis Control. Only then will they be completely legal to sell medical marijuana.

Those engaged in sales before getting their state permit are operating in violation of state law.

Recreational sales will remain illegal in Kern County.

Making purchases at one of these 28 when they become legal will still require a doctor's recommendation. Regular users may also consider purchasing a California Medical Marijuana ID Card, which costs money but allows patients to avoid the sales tax assessed on recreational cannabis.

HOW MUCH MARIJUANA CAN I HAVE?

The amount differs depending on what kind it is. You can keep 8 ounces for medicinal reasons and 1 ounce for recreational use.

Depending on the particular strain and where one buys it, an ounce of marijuana (28.5 grams) could cost between $100-$350. That could represent anywhere from a few days' to a month's supply, depending on the individual user.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I'M CAUGHT WITH MORE THAN THAT?

Bakersfield Police Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said people under 18 caught with more than the legally allowed amount of marijuana face an infraction, while those over the age of 18 face a misdemeanor charge.

If the 1- or 8-ounce limits aren't enough, you can grow it yourself, keeping however much you can harvest from six plants inside your home. That's six per household, not per person. And remember, if that adds up to more than an ounce, you have to keep it under lock and key.

WHERE CAN I SMOKE IT?

"You can't smoke in a no-smoking zone, you can't smoke at restaurants, you can't smoke in a public place, you can't smoke around school zones, so the easiest way to explain it is that you can smoke inside of a residence," Kroeker said.

Bear in mind, however, that may not be the case if you're renting. Check with your landlord.

Property owners can prevent you from growing and/or smoking in their units. It's likely some will allow it, and many others will not.


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