Outdoor cannabis cultivation ban approved

Lauren Steinheimer
Protestors gathered outside Siskiyou County Courthouse on Tuesday, Dec. 8 to display signs and disseminate literature opposing the proposed ban on outdoor cannabis cultivation considered by Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.

An estimated 250 to 300 people gathered at Siskiyou County Courthouse for the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to voice opinions on the ordinance banning outdoor cultivation of cannabis.

After hearing public comments, the board approved the ban in a 4 to 1 vote with board chair Ed Valenzuela opposing.

As of 3:15 p.m., the board had only heard a fraction of the public comments and held a stack of speaker request forms thicker than a deck of cards. Even more speaker request forms circulated through the hallway from people who hadn’t made it close enough to the door to submit them.

Chairs in the boardroom filled within seconds of the door opening and many more people had to wait in the hallway, unable to listen.

Valenzuela assured the crowd everyone that wanted to speak would have the opportunity to as he coordinated efforts to summon public commenters from the sprawling assembly into the meeting room.

Out of 25 comments made in the first 90 minutes of the public hearing, only one was in support of approving the ban.

Ray Orc supported the ban, saying, “There’s a general disregard in the cannabis community. We need to send the right message to young people.” As he said this, several of the young people in the audience began slowly shaking their heads in disagreement.

Citizens opposed to the ban made comments ranging from pleas for compassion toward cannabis patients to concerns about how the ban will influence quality of life in Siskiyou County.

Several cannabis patients said they wouldn’t be able to afford to buy medicine through a dispensary and that growing their own plants provides them with money to spend at businesses in Siskiyou County.

Citizen Kristine Melton said, “This is not happy fun stoner business for me. This is quality of life.” She continued to express doubt that the ban would stop the “big industrial grows you’re after. This is only going to harm people like myself and my family.”

Negative effects on the local economy and the belief that this ban would “push growers back into the woods” to set up illicit gardens were shared by several commenters.

A language interpreter was present to translate protests by several members of the Hmong community who claimed to rely heavily on medical cannabis.

The president of Siskiyou Alternative Medicine presented a petition he claimed was signed by 1,500 opponents to the ban. He asked board members if they’ve ever seen a bigger issue in Siskiyou County.

Many people arrived early in the day, with the sidewalk crowded at 9 a.m., and waited for the public hearing to open at 1:30 p.m. People held up signs of protest, collected petition signatures and handed out information pamphlets from the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.