Citizens will have the final say about local medical marijuana cultivation in Dunsmuir.

Citizens will have the final say about local medical marijuana cultivation in Dunsmuir.

During its regular meeting Thursday, the City Council voted 5-0 to send the issue to the November general election ballot after two Dunsmuir residents circulated a petition to remove some of the restrictive language from an ordinance the Council approved in May 2011.

City Manager Brenda Bains told the councilors that Leslie Wilde collected enough signatures to place the measure on the November 6 ballot and met all deadlines set by the Siskiyou County Clerk.

Also signed as a petitioner is Barbara Marden.

The choice Dunsmuir voters will make is whether to retain the restrictions on medical marijuana growers imposed by the current ordinance or revert largely back to cultivation standards patients practiced from 1996 to 2011.

Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act, was passed by California voters in 1996.

It allows patients to possess, consume, and cultivate medical marijuana. The legal amount grown is limited by a recommendation from a doctor.

The November ballot measure, Measure S, calls for removing the following from Dunsmuir's 2010 Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance:

• The limit of 100 square feet of canopy grown per patient.

• The limit of three qualified patients growing per legal parcel.

• The restriction to cultivate only on property that is the grower's primary residence.

• The restriction to cultivate only out of the view of the public.

• The restriction forbidding cultivation outdoors.

• The requirement to grow outside the home in fully enclosed, secure structures equipped with filtered ventilation.

• The restriction forbidding cultivation in the downtown historic district.

• The restriction prohibiting cultivation within 300-foot proximity to youth-oriented facilities.

• The restriction forbidding the use “generators, compressed gas (CO2 , propane, etc.), and/or ozone generating devices.”

Measure S would retain existing requirements to properly ventilate indoor growing operations and to cultivate medical marijuana in such a way that it does not adversely affect the health or safety of nearby residents, including a new standard requiring dedicated circuits for electrical equipment that draws more than 400 watts per outlet.

Measure S requires compliance with state law. It also caps penalties for violations at $100 per day, with a $1,000 per violation limit, down from the 2011 Dunsmuir Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance's cap of $1,500, up to six months in jail, or both.

City Council decision

Bains told the council that the decision before them was to either approve the changes sought by the petitioner, which would mean voting that night to amend parts of Dunsmuir Municipal Code Section 17.34, and thus avoid costs associated with adding an item to the ballot – or vote to send the measure to the county clerk for inclusion on the ballot.

“Since the city has already spent quite a bit of money on the process thus far, I say we let it go the voters, and let them decide this issue once and for all,” said councilor Nick Mitchell.

Councilor Chris Raine pointed out costs beyond fees for including the measure on the ballot. “I think you should let everybody know what attorney's fees and other professional fees were involved,” he said to Bains.

Ballot title, summary incurred court costs

Bains said this measure will end up costing more than it did to put the library measure on the June 5 ballot this year, because City Attorney John Kenny wrote the title and summary for Measure S. She said he also appeared in court to answer a complaint by Wilde regarding some of his wording.

Wilde said via email that in May Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon instructed Kenny to remove a line in the summary that claimed Measure S would allow people to grow marijuana as a “Home Occupation.”

According to the copy of a court document Wilde attached to her email, she and Marden also argued that Kenny's ballot title, which included the words “Remove Restrictions on Cultivation of Medical Marijuana,” was misleading and could create prejudice against the measure by causing voters to think all restrictions were to be removed.

The final draft inserted words to read “Remove Some of the Restrictions on Cultivation of Medical Marijuana.” Other changes were made to the text of the summary.

Kenny commented Monday, “We had a heck of a time getting an impartial analysis agreed upon by Leslie. We had a hearing. The judge said to make some changes. We made some changes.”

During Thursday's meeting, council member Diane Dolf criticized a “small group of people” who have decided the city's medical marijuana ordinance doesn't work for them. “I served on a committee to write and adopt a marijuana cultivation ordinance,” she said. “A great deal of time, thought and money was spent to provide guidelines and boundaries to marijuana growers, and at the same time protect those of us who want nothing to do with marijuana and the problems it brings.”

Mayor Arlis Steele spoke of damage drugs had done to Dunsmuir's image. “I and Diane and many others came up with an ordinance that would be fair to both sides,” he said. “Flora came to town only because we put the marijuana ordinance into effect.”

On the phone Monday, Flora owner Thomas Greither said he will become an active voice to warn Dunsmuir residents of “negative impact” that could result from relaxing marijuana cultivation restrictions. He also said he will not pull Flora out of town if Measure S is passed, because he has a contract with the city.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey told the City Council audience he would enforce the law. “I'm a Constitutional officer, and I'm sworn to uphold the Constitution, and since the Compassionate Use Act is the law, then we'll uphold that law,” he said. “What I'm concerned about is those people who are not following the law. There are a lot of people that may have a recommendation that are, for whatever reason, exceeding the legal parameters.”

Lopey said he stood with the city on enforcing provisions of the Dunsmuir Medicinal Marijuana Cultivation ordinance. “If you're complying with the law, and you have a proper recommendation, you're not going to have any problems from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office,” he said.

City council member Ed Steele made the motion to send the decision to Dunsmuir voters this fall.