With low-cost costs and many industrial property, Bakersfield is attracting unlawful marijuana growers to the information

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread work from home, an influx of coastal residents has flocked to Bakersfield to keep an eye on cheap property prices. But others have their sights set on the affordable Bakersfield real estate market as well, and local law enforcement is trying to keep up.

The illegal cultivation of cannabis is a major challenge for Bakersfield and Kern Counties Police. Although marijuana is legal across California, both Bakersfield City Council and Kern County regulators have banned the product from being sold and grown. Only California City and Arvin have allowed cannabis companies to legally open.

Just like Angelenos hoping to trade their cramped houses for more spacious (and cheaper) Bakersfield apartments, cannabis growers have targeted the area for their own illegal purposes as well.

In February, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office seized nearly $ 30 million worth of marijuana plants from allegedly illegal growing areas in Bakersfield Metro. As part of the busts, KCSO arrested seven people from the Los Angeles area suspected of being part of the gains, with one from Russia and one from Bakersfield.

Despite the striking numbers, the Sheriff’s Office estimates that there are dozens more in the surrounding community that have not yet been identified.

“I don’t think we’re scratching the surface for me,” said KCSO Lt. Raul Murrillo.

With a higher profit margin from Bakersfield, growers can grow the cannabis in industrial warehouses or even residential homes before shipping the product across the United States. “Almost everyone,” KCSO said, comes from outside the county, according to the department.

“Your ultimate reward, if you’ve been able to successfully grow and harvest hundreds of pounds of marijuana and drive it out of the state, you can make millions of dollars,” said KCSO Sgt. John Coleman.

Law enforcement cites complaints from local residents and concerns about waste disposal and violence as reasons why illegal acreage should be targeted, but legitimate marijuana growers also point out that the black market is causing legal harm. Licensed growers and pharmacies have a harder time surviving when they remove customers from the legal pot. When you factor in the cost of complying with government regulations and paying taxes, the difficulty becomes even greater.

“It’s like getting in line for a Disneyland ride,” said Jeffrey Thorn, co-owner of Arvin-based delivery service 420 Kingdom. “You’ve been standing in line for three hours and a guy jumps up and steals everything from you. It’s miserable. “

Lowering taxes and imposing heavy fines on property owners who allow illegal cultivation could improve the situation, he said, adding that despite the higher costs due to quality control and product safety, consumers are still shopping at 420 Kingdom.

“If you just cut taxes, you will drive more people out of the illegal market and into the legal market,” he added. “Until that happens, it will always be a problem.”

According to state data, there are 1,054 cannabis store fronts and delivery services operating in California. However, it is unknown how many illegal pharmacies and growers exist serving an unknown number of Californians. Enforcement can be difficult as many illegal producers and pharmacy owners simply reopen after being arrested. However, as the young industry continues to grow, the state hopes to iron out the flaws in the system so that the legal market can gradually overtake the illegal market.

“We just have to follow up on every complaint and make it harder for illegal operators to stay in business,” said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the state cannabis bureau. “We also have to do everything we can to help people get a license as soon as possible. Many jurisdictions still prohibit cannabis activities in their area, which makes it a little more difficult, but we have to do as much as we can to help good actors find their way to a license. “

Call 661-395-7415 on Saturday morning. You can also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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