Council rejects mayor’s request to put commercial cannabis question on the ballot

Susanville Mayor Mendy Schuster

As election day nears for the Susanville City Council candidates in the June 7 primary election, the division over commercial cannabis activities with the city limits grows increasingly more intense — on the council and in the community.

Earlier this month, many city residents asked the council to put the commercial cannabis matter on the ballot to let the citizens decide, but three Susanville City Councilmembers (Thomas Herrera, Kevin Stafford and Quincy McCourt) approved a controversial city ordinance permitting indoor commercial cannabis cultivation, warehousing, distribution and testing in addition to as many as three cannabis dispensaries within the city limits.

The commercial cannabis battle also rages on social media where some allege activists opposing the ordinance sought candidates’ personal information such as home addresses, making them fear for their personal safety and the safety of their families. They also allege the anti-cannabis activists have posted misinformation on the web.

Despite the rising controversy and the apparent strong public opposition, the Susanville City Council members who support commercial cannabis held firm Wednesday, May 18, when Mayor Mendy Schuster asked for the council’s support to put the matter on the ballot — given the public opposition to the ordinance and the fact people are collecting signatures to force the council to withdraw the ordinance or put it on the ballot.

“I have something I’d like to bring up,” Schuster said. “Knowing that our citizens are collecting signatures to override the decision that was made on May 4 approving commercial cannabis including grows in the city limits,” and knowing they may garner enough signatures to force the council to repeal the ordinance or put the commercial cannabis question on the ballot, Shuster asked the council to agree to put the item on a future agenda or hold a special meeting to deal with the issue and then “let the citizens make this important decision.”

Thomas Herrera

“Do I have support?” Schuster asked.

After a pause, Moore said, “Yeah.”

“I have support by one,” Schuster said

Councilmember Herrera said the purpose of the ordinance is to generate revenue, save the city from bankruptcy and support law enforcement and firefighters.

“If the community does speak up and they do force it to a vote, then good, then we’ll know,” Herrera said, “but once again, I have a feeling it will pass, so this feels like a very wise decision … our objective is to gain money (and) create an industry” that could save the city, its employees and the community by bringing in millions of dollars in revenue.

Herrera said the cannabis industry is interested in coming to Susanville, and “we’ve already gotten several applications — they’re in the tens of millions of dollars,” for commercial cannabis activities.

“We do know the majority, the true majority of residents, do want this,” Herrera said.