Economists hired by the state government estimate that California farms produce about 13.5 million pounds of marijuana each year, while state residents annually consume about 2.5 million pounds. 

Courtesy of Dank Depot via CALmatters

Will the city of Tehachapi soon start issuing business licenses for the commercial non-medical use and outdoor cultivation of marijuana? Or will it be banned? The city and the county have until Jan. 1 to choose, as the state will soon start issuing business licenses.

Proposition 64 was passed in 2016, legalizing adult use of marijuana, but only giving permission for personal use to people 21 years and over, according to the Secretary of State's website.

Distribution, processing and packaging on a large scale is still under discussion by Kern County. The City of Tehachapi ordinance prohibiting cannabis activity is in effect until Nov. 20, unless extended by the City Council.

Lorelei H. Oviatt, AICP director for the County of Kern Planning and Natural Resources Department, said the new law requires a license from the state and a physical retail location, which must be 1,000 feet away from schools and recreation facilities. There are also various regulations on the quality of the product.

According to the Oct. 2 City Council report, data obtained from the Kern County County Clerk showed that the “majority of voters in Tehachapi voted against Proposition 64.”

Oviatt spoke on the history of the fight against marijuana in Kern County and the monetary impacts on whether to ban or regulate it during a Rotary Club meeting Oct. 5 at Big Papa's.

Oviatt said that originally, the Compassionate Use Act passed in 1996 was to accommodate people who needed marijuana for specific medical reasons, such as chemotherapy or epilepsy. This allowance led, however, to illegal businesses opening, with no ventilation requirements or building permits.

Now, the Kern County Planning Commission is faced with two options — ban cannabis or regulate it and make a decision on Oct. 12.

In order to enforce a ban, an estimated $1 to 3 million coming from the state’s general fund would pay for a Cannabis Enforcement Task Force made up of the sheriff, district attorney, public health and others.

If this option is selected, taxes from marijuana from Proposition 64 would not go to the general fund. According to Oviatt, it means the $254 million in tax revenue that could go to law enforcement would be non-existent and funds would have to be found from somewhere else.

This would mean no outdoor cultivation of marijuana would be allowed and people would be restricted to growing cannabis indoors, ban use of public smoking, and close all illegal dispensaries.

Another option is to regulate.

This means that 2 million square feet of indoor cultivation, 150 acres of outdoor cultivation, 500,000 square feet of processing and packaging and no more than two retail stores in any community with a maximum of 40 stores countywide would be allowed, according to a handout passed out by Oviatt.

Oviatt said also that business owners could not get licenses if any felonies were on their records, and that each greenhouse needs a ventilation system, likely costing $1 million.

The estimated annual revenue from property taxes and sales tax would be more than $1.5 million and provide an estimated 8,750 jobs. The taxes that voters agreed on would also come to $33 million annually going to the general fund from countywide incorporated areas.

“My recommendation to the planning commission was to regulate,” said Oviatt.

She added, "To have in your community a business that doesn't even get a building permit, it creates an air of lawlessness, it creates safety issues, it sends the wrong message and puts all the control on Sacramento."

Environmental impact reports on the environment, transportation, water quality, agriculture and other issues are still being investigated.

To watch the Oct. 12 Kern County Planning Commission meeting the public can go to pcd.kerndsa.com/hearings/commission and view the meeting live from youtube.

The next Tehachapi City Council meeting will be held on Oct. 16, in which this topic has yet to be added to any city council agenda. More information will be announced once this information is made public.

Please visit liveuptehachapi.com for more information on city council agendas.