Shasta County Stands Up for Outdoor Cultivation Rights
This story was updated on March 3. Many others who were also involved in the campaign are probably still not credited. This story is meant to be inspirational to others who want to get active locally.
Against all odds, the citizens of Shasta county have turned in an estimated 13,080 signatures on a referendum to repeal their outdoor cultivation ban, only 20 days after their campaign began. The number is more than twice the 6,600 valid signatures needed to overturn the measure.
A flurry of phone calls, emails and Facebook messages started coming in from Shasta county to CalNORML after the board of supervisors there pulled a last-minute switch and passed a ban on any outdoor cultivation on January 29. “People were asking for help, but no one wanted to lead the charge from the ground,” recalled CalNORML deputy director Ellen Komp. “I told everyone they could file for a referendum to repeal the ordinance, but they only had 30 days to get the signatures in, so they’d better act fast.”
Looking for a location where a meeting might be held, Komp placed a call to Planet Herb, a collective in Redding and CalNORML member. That day, 36-year-old Jessica Lunsford, a Shasta county resident, went by Planet Herb. “I was looking for a bandwagon to join,” said Lunsford. She was given Komp’s number at CalNORML and the two spoke on February 4, just after Komp testified in Tuolumne county about their pending cultivation ordinance.
Lunsford started the group Sungrown in Shasta and got help from local collectives that carried the initiative, the GrowOn store in Redding, and the NorCal-PatientCoalition, as well as the California Cannabis Coalition, a group that has successfully mounted six petition campaigns across the state.
"With CCC we got the cavalry,” Lunsford said, adding, "Everybody helped, that's what made it work. Everyone dug in and got their hands dirty and we had a beautiful garden." After the Redding Record Searchlight published a story calculating that the cost of complying with the new ordinance would be $12,000 just to grow 12 plants even more people got on board.
“We have realized our power,” said Lunsford, adding that Shasta’s grass roots coalition is considering writing an initiative for the ballot, rather than leaving the matter to the BOS, even though there are now pro medical-marijuana candidates for the Board who have stepped up. The group estimates they turned in 3600 voter registrations, not counting those who registered online, and the county clerk has said her office is having trouble keeping up with processing them all.
“I’m finally proud to be living in Shasta county,” wrote one supporter on Facebook. Another resident considered moving to Siskiyou county when the ordinance was passed and is now glad he didn’t, since Siskiyou is considering a Tehama-style ordinance now in their county.
By contrast, Fresno county was unsuccessful in repealing their total cultivation ban, despite efforts by local activists to gather signatures. In what points to a racist policy, most of the people who called CalNORML about that ban were Hispanic, Laotian or Hmong, and faced language barriers as well as a lack of experience in political organizing.
Save Butte Growers Rights and other groups are collecting signatures on a referendum to repeal their county's new restrictive growing ordinance. Those signatures must be turned in by March 13. They are also working towards an initiative with a May turn-in. A PAC, Butte County Citizens Against Irresponsible Government, is fundraising for the efforts, and they're facing opposition from a hate group.
A PAC has also been formed in Shasta for future efforts under the name Shasta County United.