Dunsmuir residents will decide whether or not to remove some restrictions of the city's marijuana ordinance when they vote on Measure S in the Nov. 6 General Election.

Dunsmuir residents will decide whether or not to remove some restrictions of the city's marijuana ordinance when they vote on Measure S in the Nov. 6 General Election.

The current ordinance was passed in May 2011.

The city council sent the issue to the voters in July after Barbara Marden and Leslie Wilde circulated a petition to remove some of the restrictive language of their ordinance.

If approved on Tuesday, Measure S would revert cultivation laws, for the most part, back to cultivation standards practiced in Dunsmuir from 1996 to 2011. Approval of Measure S would make the following changes to the city's current medical marijuana ordinance:

Removal of limits on canopy area for each qualified patient; Removal of limits on qualified patients growing on any parcel; Cultivation of medical marijuana would be allowed on property that is not the grower's primary residence; Cultivation of medical marijuana would be allowed in view of the public; Cultivation of medical marijuana would be allowed outdoors; Cultivation would be allowed in the interior of attached or detached garage structures that are fully enclosed; Cultivation of medical marijuana would be allowed in Dunsmuir's historic district; Cultivation of medical marijuana would be allowed in proximity to youth-oriented activities.

The ballot measure continues to require that the cultivation of marijuana cannot adversely affect the health or safety of nearby residents and continues to require proper ventilation for indoor growing. It continues to comply with state laws and doesn't allow for a cultivator to create a public nuisance in their neighborhood.

Measure S would cap the penalty for a violation at $100 per day, not to exceed $1,000 for any single violation. It further modifies standards for indoor cultivation to only require dedicated circuits for electrical equipment if they use more than 400 watts per outlet, and allows for use of generators, compressed gas and ozone generating devices.

Arguments for and against

"Right now, the only city in all of Siskiyou County with a medical marijuana cultivation ordinance is Dunsmuir," states Wilde in an argument in favor of Measure S. "This is despite the fact that our sister cities such as Mt. Shasta, Weed and Yreka have larger populations, more youth-oriented activities and more extensive historic districts."

She pointed out that medical marijuana patients "used good judgement and exercised discretion" between 1996, when the Compassionate Use Act was passed by California voters, and 2011, when the current ordinance was imposed. Wilde also argued that patients were never growing in view of the public or near youth oriented activities like parks, playgrounds, and ball fields and to make Measure S about allowing children to be affected by medical marijuana is disingenuous.

"Trust me, patients who cultivate their own medicine appreciate their privacy and use adequate screening," Wilde said. "In contrast, a child riding their bicycle from one end of Dunsmuir's historic district to the other passes no fewer than six establishments providing full view of people drinking alcohol. In fact, the only playground in all of Dunsmuir is directly across the street from the Dunsmuir Brewery. But marijuana cultivation is supposedly so dangerous that even in a cement bunker, buried entirely underground, it cannot be allowed within 300 feet of a park, playground, a youth-oriented activity, or any where in the historic district?"

Opponents of the measure, including Dunsmuir's mayor Arlis Steele, said since the restrictive ordinance was put in place last year, 20 new businesses have come to town. He predicts that if Measure S is passed, it will adversely affect the town's appeal to tourists and potential new business owners.

"The cities of Weed and Yreka will not even give a business license to dope related businesses," said Steele. "Even though some cities have more youth oriented activities than we do, why would you want to see or grow pot next to where our young people gather? Marijuana patients do have state rights, but federal law does trump state law. If Measure S fails... it will uphold the ordinance as it is written, and there would be nothing left to argue about."

In response, Wilde said, "The current cultivation restrictions in Dunsmuir have only been in place for one year... there is no measurable difference to tourism linked to restricting the rights of patients to grow their own medicine."

In an argument against Measure S that did not make it into the official voter pamphlet, opponents of Measure S said numerous hearings were held and the current ordinance was formulated with input from the public.

The goals of the ordinance are to "address marijuana odors, separate cultivation of medical marijuana from youth oriented activities, discourage the growth of marijuana in areas readily visible to the public, and ban it totally in the downtown historic district while insuring that the cultivation of marijuana is limited to those who need (it)... in the amount they are legally entitled to."

Wilde argues that those opposed to Measure S are against medical marijuana as medicine altogether, and base the majority of their arguments around that central issue. She states that the council has been as difficult as possible to those who grow their own medical marijuana.

As Wilde wrote in the statement in support of Measure S: "Council members showed open hostility and disdain for medical marijuana patient's rights and made public statements including: 'if we must pass an ordinance then at least make it as expensive as possible for patients' and 'for the vast majority, it's just a habit and not for legitimate reasons.'"

"The marijuana advocates cannot accept any of the restrictions on the cultivation of their marijuana and will not attempt to reach a compromise with other citizens," according to the argument against the measure. "They want it their way only... Measure S is an attempt by a handful of citizens with a special interest at the expense of the public in general."

"This will be a defining moment for Dunsmuir," Steele said. "Which direction will our citizens take us?"