Siskiyou County voters in Tuesday’s Primary Election said “yes” to more marijuana regulation, and “no” to a tax hike to build a new jail.
A pair of pot-related measures passed handily, including an outright ban on outdoor growing of medical marijuana.
According to preliminary ballot counts, Measure T passed with 66 percent “yes” votes, as did its complement, Measure U. The referenda were actually proposed by advocates for medical marijuana and were designed to give voters a chance to reject two ordinances enacted by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors in 2015.
The new rules sought to rein in what many locals see as an out-of-control cannabis industry that’s creating noise, traffic, odors and pollution with no regard for neighbors or the environment.
But measure sponsor Keith Cope says growers have been unfairly painted as criminals.
“And it seems to me like Siskiyou County has ignored the spirit, if not the letter, of the medical marijuana law that was passed by the voters back in 1996," he says.
By approving Measures T and U, voters strengthened Ordinances 15-18 and 15-19 to include harsher restrictions on marijuana cultivation, including a strict 12 plant limit no matter the size of the property nor the plants. The current limit is determined by acreage; with a maximum of six mature plants on parcels under an acre, and a maximum of 24 mature plants on parcels above 20 acres.
Measure U bans outdoor cultivation, the use of generators and grow lights in greenhouses. It specifies that legal grows must be inside, but only within uninhabited structures, such as greenhouses. A legally occupied residence must also exist on the same parcel. Measure T specifies that recreational vehicles don’t count.
Under Measure T, those who flout the rules could face penalties of $500 per day for a first offense and $1,000 per day for subsequent offenses.
Meanwhile, a statewide measure to legalize recreational pot and hemp will appear on the November ballot.
In a separate matter, this primary election decided that Siskiyou County won't raise taxes to build a new jail. Measure S proposed a 1/2 cent sales tax to supplement $27 million in state bonds already set aside to build the facility. The tax increase would have covered a nearly $10 million shortfall.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey says he’s disappointed with the vote.
"It saddens me because I think this is going to adversely impact the public safety of all Siskiyou County residents, and certainly my staff and the inmates in the jail," he says.
Tax measures require approval from at least two thirds of voters and Measure S fell well short, with only 52 percent voting in favor as of midnight Tuesday.