Cannabis cultivation for personal use by individuals over the age of 21 in Kern County is legal. Such individuals can only privately grow a maximum of six cannabis plants for medical and recreational use. However, individuals over the age of 21 may only grow cannabis in their homes, in an area hidden from public view. Kern County strictly prohibits outdoor cultivation for commercial or personal use. The law defines cultivation as the growing, planting, harvesting, drying, processing, or storage of one or more cannabis plants or their parts in any location. On November 6, 2018, the recreational marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation initiative was put up on the ballot for voters in Kern County to vote, but it was defeated. Of the 194,511 votes, only 47.62% voted in support of the ballot, while 52.38% voted against it. Hence, all commercial cannabis activities in Kern County are banned pursuant to the Cannabis Ordinance, Section 19.08.55. The law strictly enforces the six-plant cannabis limit and establishes a penalty schedule for individuals that violate the law. The penalty schedule is as follows:
Qualified patients with a Medical Marijuana ID card may exceed the established limits recommended by their physician pursuant to Kern County's Cannabis Ordinance and California's Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). Note that California City and Arvin allow cannabis cultivation businesses but not commercial sales.
According to the Cannabis Ordinance, Section 19.08.55, Kern County does not permit the manufacture of medicinal and recreational cannabis within the county.
Cannabis retail is not legal in Kern County. Cannabis Ordinance, Section 19.08.55 bans commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis businesses within the county, excluding California City and Arvin. On March 3, 2020, an initiative concerning the regulation and taxation of medicinal cannabis dispensaries was on the ballot for voters in Kern County to decide, but it did not win. The ballot was for people to vote for or against the authorization of medical marijuana dispensaries to operate with a conditional use permit in Kern County, and the imposition of a 3.5% special business tax for every $1,000 of gross income. However, of the 153,933 persons that voted, 43.56% voted in support of the initiative, while 56.44% voted against it. Hence, all medicinal cannabis dispensaries and retail stores remain banned.
Medicinal cannabis can be sold to primary caregivers or qualified patients, in accordance with a Health and Safety Code Section 11362.7 et seq, at dispensaries in surrounding counties where the sale of cannabis is legal. Qualified patients allowed into a medical cannabis dispensary must not be younger than 18 years old. They may only be allowed if their parents or legal guardians accompany them.
Qualified patients, caregivers, and authorized consumers can access cannabis by planting up to six cannabis plants in their private residences.
There is no law permitting cannabis delivery in Kern County because the retail sale of cannabis is not legal. Residents qualified to consume cannabis are only allowed to consume the cannabis they cultivate, which must comply with the state and county's six-limit provision.
Qualified patients diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions in Kern County can apply to the Department of Public Health to get their medical marijuana identification cards. Primary caregivers can also obtain this card on behalf of the patients in their care. However, the primary caregiver must be able to prove to the Department of Public Health that a physician has certified their patient's medical condition and has recommended medical marijuana for their treatment. A qualified patient applying for a medical marijuana identification card shall also be required to provide proof that their physician recommends medical marijuana for their treatment. Applicants will need to provide proof of identity, such as a California state identification card, California driver's license, or United States passport. Kern County's Department of Public Health also requires applicants to provide proof that they reside in Kern County. The proof may be an unexpired and valid motor vehicle registration or a current rent or mortgage receipt or utility bill in the patient's name, bearing current address within the county. Payment of a fee not exceeding $100 will also be required.
In Kern County, qualified patients and caregivers may apply to obtain their medical marijuana identification cards at:
Kern County Department of Public Health
1800 Mount Vernon Avenue
Bakersfield, CA 93306
Phone: (661) 321-3000
Business hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays.
Kern County is one of the few counties in California where cannabis commercial activities are banned. This makes it almost impossible to fully explore the financial benefits the regulation and taxation of cannabis can have on the county. The Cannabis Sales by County report published by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) indicates that despite cannabis not being regulated, it had some financial impact on the county's economy. In 2018, after cannabis legalization, Kern County generated a total taxable sales of $4,434,143, while it increased to $4,715,103 in 2019. The financial impact further increased significantly in 2020, as the total taxable sales was $12,001,131. The data for the taxable sales in Kern County recorded by the CDTFA indicates that cannabis can have a more significant financial impact on the county's economy if sales are regulated and taxed.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports crime data across counties in the United States based on the crime data generated from law enforcement agencies. The crime report submitted by the Kern County Sheriff's Office details how cannabis legalization has influenced the crime rate of Kern County. In 2018, Kern County Sheriff's Office reported 87 DUIs, 32 marijuana possession offenses, and 17 marijuana sale/manufacturing offenses. In 2019, DUIs increased to 74 in Kern County and there were 46 arrests for marijuana drug possession and 22 arrests for marijuana sale/manufacturing. In 2020, the crime rate of DUIs further increased to 92 and there were 78 arrests for marijuana possession offenses and 12 marijuana sale/manufacturing offenses. From the crime data, DUIs have consistently increased since 2018, and this can be linked to the legalization of cannabis in Kern County. In 2018 and 2019, the arrests for marijuana sales and manufacturing increased, but the crime rate fell in 2020. On the other hand, the crime data for marijuana possession has consistently increased since 2020.