McFarland Welcomes Its First Marijuana Dispensary After Passing Ordinance

The city of McFarland, located in Kern County, California, has allowed for its first marijuana dispensary to open, after passing an ordinance in 2022 that legalized the sale of medicinal and adult use of cannabis. The dispensary, called Off the Charts, is expected to open by the summer of 2023, and will provide a new source of revenue and jobs for the city, as well as a new option for cannabis consumers.

McFarland, with a population of about 14,500, has been struggling with financial and social issues for years, such as poverty, unemployment, crime, and lack of services. The city has been on the verge of bankruptcy several times, and even considered disincorporating and being governed by the county instead of retaining local control. The city has also faced controversy and opposition from outside groups, when it voted to convert two privately run state prisons into immigration detention centers run by the GEO Group in 2020.

The city has tried to attract businesses and investments to boost its economy and improve its quality of life, but with little success. The city has also faced challenges in providing essential services, especially police protection, as it lost some of its officers and dispatchers to neighboring cities that offered better pay and benefits.

McFarland Voted to Legalize Cannabis in 2022

In March 2022, the City Council approved putting a measure on the ballot that would allow for the sale of medicinal and adult use of cannabis, following the example of other cities in California and across the US that have legalized cannabis for various purposes. The measure, called Measure O, was approved by the voters in November of that year, with 58% in favor and 42% against.

In 2023, the city held public hearings to adopt an ordinance that would regulate the cannabis industry in the city, and to address the concerns and questions of the residents. Some of the residents were opposed to the ordinance, citing safety and moral issues, and fearing that the dispensary would bring more crime and drug abuse to the city. Others were supportive of the ordinance, citing the potential benefits of cannabis for health and wellness, and the economic opportunities for the city.

The ordinance allows for one dispensary to operate within the city limits, with strict rules and standards, such as security, zoning, licensing, and taxation. The ordinance also sets aside 1% of the cannabis tax revenue for community events and water bill subsidies, while the rest goes to the city’s general fund.

McFarland Chose Off the Charts as Its First Dispensary

The city chose Off the Charts, a chain of cannabis dispensaries based in San Diego, as its first and only dispensary in the city, after a competitive bidding process. Off the Charts has four other locations in California, and offers a variety of cannabis products, such as flowers, edibles, concentrates, and accessories. Off the Charts also prides itself on its customer service, education, and social responsibility.

The dispensary will be located on Frontage Road at the northern end of the city, facing Highway 99, and will occupy a 3,000 square foot building that was formerly a restaurant. The dispensary will employ about 15 people, mostly from the local community, and will pay a 15% business tax to the city, which could generate up to $2 million per year for the city.

The dispensary is expected to open by the summer of 2023, after completing the necessary renovations and inspections. The dispensary will also have to comply with the state and county regulations on cannabis, as well as the city’s ordinance.

McFarland Hopes to See Positive Impacts from Cannabis

The city hopes to see positive impacts from the cannabis industry, such as increased revenue, jobs, and services for the city, as well as increased access, affordability, and choice for the cannabis consumers. The city also hopes to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with cannabis, and to promote responsible and informed use.

The city’s leaders, including City Manager Kenny Williams and Mayor Saul Ayon, both former law enforcement officials with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, said they are excited and optimistic about the cannabis industry, and that they want to make McFarland a better place to live and work.

“We need commercial, we need restaurants, we need gas stations and other businesses that will increase our general fund,” said Ayon. “We need to compete with Delano and Wasco if we don’t have the revenue to pay our officers. We need to provide essential services to our residents.”

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