|Photo: Andreas Fuhrmann/Redding Record Searchlight|
|Dunsmuir, California Mayor Peter Arth, himself a medical marijuana patient, stands on his land in the center of town where he is proposing to grow a medical marijuana garden in greenhouses|
Peter Arth, mayor of Dunsmuir, California, doesn't mind being called "Mayor Juana" for his highly visible advocacy of medical marijuana in the tiny Northern California town.
The mayor is aware he has become a lightning rod for a pot culture war in Siskiyou County that is being waged not in the forests or streets, but in the minds of local residents, reports Damian Mann of the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune.
Dunsmuir and Mount Shasta are the only two cities in the mostly rural county where medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to operate. Elsewhere in the county, government leaders have banned pot shops in their communities.
Arth, 64, a retired lawyer from San Francisco, is facing a recall election next month on the same ballot where Prop 19, which would legalize an ounce or less of marijuana for all adults in California, will appear. Conservative residents are scandalized by his cannabis advocacy and his support for a rate increase for sewer and water to pay for infrastructure improvements in the town.
A local group, "Citizens For A Better Dunsmuir," hopes to oust the pot-smoking mayor over his support for a medical marijuana garden downtown -- across the street from the sheriff's substation -- to help promote tourism and provide safe, organic marijuana to patients.
"If the old expression, 'I dipped my foot in the pool' applies, the shark bit my foot off but I didn't die,' said Arth, who smokes two joints a day for anxiety and depression.
Chris Raine, a supporter of the recall move to get rid of Mayor Arth, claimed the mayor's pot proposal has rightly drawn criticism and unwanted publicity.
"It's going to cause him to get recalled this November," said local business owner Raine.
The proposal to put a major marijuana garden in downtown Dunsmuir -- even if it is on Arth's own land -- would turn off residents and potential new businesses in a town that is "mostly conservative," Raine claimed.
"A lot of people don't like marijuana in any shape or form," Raine said.
Ironically, Raine, like many pot foes, seems spectacularly ignorant about the very substance he claims to be so concerned about. He claimed that most medical marijuana users "don't treat it like a prescription."
"The first puff is medicine, then everything else is just abuse," claimed Raine, who seems to be one of those blowhards who has a few bucks, so he just went ahead and appointed himself a medical expert as well.
Arth, for his part, said Raine often goes to the extreme in his comments, sometimes likening the mayor's support of medical marijuana to someone who is trying to kill children.
Mayor Arth said it is a little hypocritical that Raine -- who has recently started selling beer and wine at his business, the Burger Barn, about a block from the proposed pot garden -- is carrying on about marijuana when Raine himself sells a much harsher drug, alcohol.
Instead of supporting his idea to boost tourism, Mayor Arth said, Raine and others seem content to leave half the town's storefronts empty.
"If this community doesn't do something soon to make itself attractive to businesses and visitors, the town is going to die," Arth said.
According to Arth, Dunsmuir could create a brand name for locally grown, organic marijuana that would enhance tourism, drawing people from Southern Oregon and other areas.
Arth does have other reasons for creating a crop that is locally overseen from start to finish.
"I want to be able to control the quality of stuff I put in my body," Arth said.
The mayor adds that he's not had much success growing his own pot on the balcony of his downtown business.
Meanwhile, "Mayor Juana" appears to take his reputation and stoney nickname in stride.
"If you were doing a documentary, you couldn't ask for a better petri dish than Dunsmuir," the mayor said.