Yreka to explore marijuana dispensary legalization as public opinion evolves

Skip Descant
Special to the Siskiyou Daily News
Elizabeth Tabor, a Redding native and owner of La Florista in Weed, demonstrates in this 2017 file photo how to use a medical marijuana patch.

City leaders in Yreka will move forward with gathering data and hearing from the community around the issue of cannabis dispensaries. 

Following public comments at a recent City Council meeting where Elizabeth Tabor, who operates marijuana dispensaries in Weed and Mount Shasta, implored officials to consider a move that would open the door to the legal operation of dispensaries in the city. 

“I don’t want to just bring it back and talk about. I want figures before we meet. I want to see revenue figures,” Councilman Paul McCoy told his fellow council members. 

“We will compile the data, and we will come back with the data, and then at that point you can direct us to get more data or other information,” replied Yreka City Manager Jason Ledbetter. 

The issue of marijuana has long been one of controversy in the Siskiyou County seat, where it remains largely illegal. Prior community discussions elicited significant public engagement, with some of the existing council members taking a thumbs-down opinion on the subject. In 2018, Joan Smith Freeman, then serving as the city’s mayor and running for reelection to the council, stated, “We don’t want that element in our community,” according to Siskiyou Daily News coverage at the time. 

This is not the official city limit sign for Weed, California, but rather a parody sign for sale at a shop in the Siskiyou County city on Jan. 25, 2022.

Though to be fair, public opinion around marijuana has evolved around an industry that is heavily regulated and taxed. And the revenue possibilities around bringing a new industry into the city could be enough to raise council interests, particularly as the city takes on new expenses related to infrastructure maintenance related to a project to rehab Main Street with new sidewalks, planters, crosswalks, streetlights and more. But also, as the city considers the operations and maintenance costs for a new aquatic center. 

The city plans to take the new pool issue to the voters in November to let them decide if they want to increase the sales tax to generate funding for the pool’s operation and maintenance. 

File photo - Ringe Pool on Knapp Drive in Yreka was built in 1962 and operated until 2017 when a large crack was discovered.

Aside from the pool, in recent meetings with the council and the city’s finance committee, Ledbetter has laid out a range of new expenses from increased salaries to the rising costs of building maintenance and employee benefits packages. These budget pressures could be enough to persuade the council to take a second look at the cannabis business. 

“We need to discuss both sides of this issue,” remarked Mayor Duane Kegg. “There’s a lot of things, from both ways, that we need to discuss on this.”

Skip Descant is a freelance journalist. He’s written for newspapers in California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He lives in downtown Yreka.