Suspected marijuana grow found near Bakersfield California school

Just as Kern County Supervisors could crack down on medical marijuana operations, there’s more concern about where marijuana is being grown locally. Eyewitness News discovered a grow several blocks from Mira Monte High School after getting calls to the tipline. On Tuesday, the board of supervisors will consider several options for local ordinances covering medical marijuana. The recommendations include possible regulation of dispensaries and outdoor growing of medical marijuana.

Monday, Eyewitness News found what appears to be a grow with perhaps a couple hundred plants on Redbank Road, several blocks east of the high school. They appear to be marijuana plants. The area is a couple hundred feet back from the road, and surrounded by plywood walls. A man who came out of a nearby house said he owns the property, but he’s “renting out” that section. He told Eyewitness News he doesn’t know what’s being grown behind the wooden barriers. He said he rented out the area starting a couple months ago. The area is in the Kern County Fifth District, represented by Karen Goh. “I’m very concerned about plants that would be found that close to a school,” Goh said Monday afternoon. “And the access that students might have.”

Hours before, Eyewitness News saw teenagers walking by, apparently from the high school. They didn’t appear to notice the enclosure, but it’s on the south side of the road, near some grape vineyards. Homes line the street on the north side. Law officers have reported finding more medical marijuana plots in areas closer to neighborhoods, in the past the grows have mostly been spotted in very remote areas. Supervisor Goh heard from constituents about another marijuana plot in her district on Weedpatch Highway.

“We saw, just through a hole in the fence, marijuana growing,” Goh said. “A large lot of it.” The supervisor said residents in her area are worried. The board will get a 50-page staff report on ordinance options. The big report covers recent court rulings, new action by various cities and counties to regulate medical marijuana, and a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report on effects of marijuana. The report also lists concerns about “collectives” or dispensaries and marijuana grows being targets for crime and violence.

“According to the Kern County Sheriff, Medical Marijuana collectives have been operating in Kern County for several years with minimal local regulation and have been the subject of armed robberies with shots fired, incidents with juveniles and young adults, and closure and arrests of operators for violation of both state and federal laws, including seizure of illegal firearms,” the report reads. Goh said that is a concern, she said the focus of local regulation should be public safety and following the law. “Both the federal law and that of California,” Goh said. “But also protect the health of the community and then any ensuing fallout from the illegal use.” In California, voters passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 that allows marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

Eyewitness News has investigated medical marijuana dispensaries or “collectives.” Members say the facilities are operated within the law, and that members need the medicine for various health issues. On Tuesday, supervisors can consider several local ordinance options outlined in the report.  They could vote to ban all collectives, or to continue a moratorium for a year which bans any new dispensaries. County attorneys say there are about 30 collectives that now operate in the county.  The current moratorium on collectives is set to expire on Aug. 24. The board could also vote to ban all outdoor growing of medical marijuana, or prohibit grows of more than 100 plants.

Law officers say they are finding more grows near neighborhoods, they are also finding large grows where medical marijuana recommendations are posted. Last Friday, Kern County sheriff deputies served search warrants on eight large grows near Delano. Each was surrounded by wooden or tin walls. “The marijuana was being grown under the guise of being legal using medical marijuana recommendations,” a sheriff’s statement reads. “All of the grows, with the exception of one, were found to be out of compliance.”

At the location on Redbank, notices appear to be posted to the plywood walls. From the road, it’s impossible to read what those say. The property-owner told a reporter he had not looked at the notices. That owner said he has started the eviction process to kick out the people he’s renting the area to.  He estimated it’s about one-third acre. Goh said on Tuesday she’ll listen to public input on the options to regulate medical marijuana. “The focus of staff recommendations is not on prohibiting the use, it’s really on the dispensing,” Goh said. “Parameters to make sure that we ensure control, the appropriate level of control. It’s not focused on preventing use, dispensing is the focus.”

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