Dunsmuir’s mayor and a medicinal marijuana collective owner want to plant a marijuana garden smack-dab in the middle of the city’s historical business district.
“We’re trying to bring the growing of medical cannabis out of the darkness of an underground market and into the legal light,” said Mayor Peter Arth.
Arth, himself a medical marijuana patient, wants to lease three commercial lots he owns at Dunsmuir Avenue and Cedar Street to Green-Collar Compassionate Collective owner Leslie Wilde. The property is across the street from the Siskiyou County sheriff’s substation.
The Dunsmuir City Council will hear public comment on their proposal Thursday.
Arth said three professionally-engineered greenhouses would provide a place to grow high-quality medical marijuana for members of the collective.
Arth said it’s hard to know where the medicine is grown and how safe it is. It could be grown in Mexico, a national forest, or it could be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals, he said. There is also a criminal element to the marijuana business that sometimes overlaps with the medical marijuana sector, he said.
But fellow council member Mario Rubino has raised objections he said were brought to him by community members, he said.
Rubino sent a memo to the council as part of the agenda packet outlining the concerns.
Since the city contracts with the Siskiyou County sheriff for only 20 hours of protection per day and has no police force of its own, security concerns are paramount, he said.
“It’d be like putting $50,000 in an empty lot with a wooden fence around it,” Rubino said of the project. “That’s going to draw a lot of attention.”
Though the sheriff’s substation is across the street, the expectation that the deputies patrol and secure a medical marijuana grow operation is unrealistic, he said.
“Not having a full-time sheriff, it is unreasonable to recommend such a high-risk potential business, or that the town could provide it a reasonably secure site,” Rubino wrote in the memo.
Arth and Wilde must apply for a historical site alteration permit for the facility by April 23 to get their proposal onto the planning commission’s May 5 agenda, Acting City Manager Alan Harvey said.
“In terms of the proposal, the kind of criteria the planning commission will be applying are: Is this a suitable use? Is this a suitable kind of structure? Does it fit within the context of the historic district? Is it going to significantly modify the features of the historic district?” Harvey said.
Arth said right now the lot is empty aside from some trees.
“So why not move in the direction that we have tried to move in as a city in terms of economic prosperity, toward sustainable agriculture, toward renewable sources of energy, to finding ways to create jobs and more economic stability for our area?” he asked.
By Amanda Winters