County clerk rejects signatures in quest to quash cannabis

Skye Kinkade

The Keep Cannabis Away from Kids coalition hit a speedbump last week in its quest to curtail cannabis businesses in Mount Shasta when Siskiyou County Clerk Laura Bynum rejected all 380 signatures submitted on their initiative because an affidavit wasn’t submitted to the city in the required timeframe.

Tom Scovill, chairperson of Keep Cannabis Away from Kids, called the issue “a minor technical error” and said the coalition is working with an attorney to resolve the issue, which he believes will not impede their cause.

Bynum explained that the petitioners were required to submit an affidavit to the City of Mt. Shasta within 10 days of the petition’s publication in the Mount Shasta Herald on Feb. 26, according to California Elections Code 9206. She sent a letter to the coalition and the city on April 20, notifying both entities of her decision.

“This type of minor error has been shown consistently in California not to stop citizen’s right to the initiative process,” said Scovill. “The 10-day proof of publication notice is virtually irrelevant in a town where initiative petitions are rare, and there is only one newspaper, a weekly.”

Scovill said the coalition provided the city with the initiative language and the Notice of Intent to circulate the petition, and the city wrote the title and summary. The coalition published all three components in the legal section of the newspaper and provided the city with proof of publication, but not within 10 days of publication as required.

“We complied with the Elections Code,” Scovill said. “The notice was published in the newspaper as required. The petitions were not circulated prior to publication. The petitions themselves contain the notice as required, as well as the city’s title and summary. The purpose of Elections Code Section 9206, proof of publication, is to show compliance with EC Section 9205, publication in the newspaper to educate the public. We did comply with 9205 from the beginning so there is no substantial violation of the elections code.”

The coalition needs about 225 signatures – or 10% of the city’s approximately 2,250 voters – to force the city council to either adopt their resolution or put it before voters.

If the council chooses to place the measure on the ballot, the city would be responsible for election costs, said Mount Shasta Deputy City Clerk Kathy Joyce.

The city maintains that there has been no increase in crime since Proposition 64 was passed in California, making recreational marijuana legal for those over age 21.

The Keep Cannabis Away from Kids coalition, however, alleges the city council and its staff have turned Mount Shasta into “a hub for the industrial marijuana industry, putting their business interests ahead of community residents.”

The coalition states that their initiative will not affect adults in accessing their medicinal or recreational marijuana, but would cap the current number of industrial cannabis licenses and prohibit any new such licenses being issued in Mount Shasta, except when an existing business is sold.

“Over time the initiative would reduce the presence of industrial cannabis businesses as licenses are surrendered or revoked,” according to a press release from the coalition.

The initiative also establishes a 600 foot buffer zone between cannabis businesses and schools, subjects license holders to annual unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with local and state requirements, and allows more input from city residents when industrial cannabis licenses are renewed. It also specifies that the council would need voter approval to amend the initiative in the future.

Scovill said California law is “crystal clear that minor technical errors such as failing to provide proof of publication of the notice within 10 days cannot be used by elections officials to deny citizens their constitutional right to initiative.”

He said the coalition is “100% confident that our petition will move forward, whether voluntarily by elections officials – preferable – or by court order.”