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Council Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance

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The Parker Town Council approved an ordinance regarding the placement of a medical marijuana dispensary within the town limits. The ordinance, which was passed at the council's May 17 meeting, allows for a dispensary to be located on land zoned for general commercial or light industrial uses. The dispensary also cannot be within 500 feet of a school, day care center, library, park, residential area, or house of worship.

The bill came out of Prop 203, which state voters narrowly approved in November 2010. The proposition allows for the limited use of marijuana for medical purposes. Under state law, La Paz County will be allowed one dispensary to start, though a second one could be added later.

While the federal government lists marijuana as a controlled substance with no medical use, supporters of medical marijuana say it helps relieve the symptoms of seriously ill persons with diseases such as glaucoma and certain cancers.

This was the town's second attempt as passing such an ordinance. An earlier ordinance had called for a 1,000-foot limit instead of a 500-foot limit. Noting the state had recommended a 500-foot limit, council members approved changing the proposed ordinance to a 500-foot limit at their April 19 meeting.

That vote was rescinded at a special council meeting April 22 after the council learned that any changes to an ordinance regarding zoning had to go through the town's zoning process.

At the May 17 meeting, Community Development Director Guy Gorman offered four variations of the ordinance for the council to consider. One had a 1,000-foot limit, while the others had 500-foot limits.

With a 1,000-foot limit, Gorman said there would be no properties within Parker Central where a dispensary could be located. He said such a limit would effectively send a dispensary to Parker South.

With a general commercial, or C-2, zoning and a 500-foot limit, several properties would be available between California Avenue and the railroad tracks from 17th Street to 21st Street. There would also be sites available on California Avenue between Arizona Avenue and 16th Street and between California Avenue and the railroad tracks from Agency Road to 5th Street.

Gorman said the Planning and Zoning Commission favored the proposal calling for C-2 and light industrial zoning. Under this proposal, the same sites would be available as with C-2, as well as some additional sites. Possible sites would be between Hopi Avenue and the railroad tracks between 8th and 9th Streets and in the block bounded by 5th Street, Hopi Avenue, 6th Street and the railroad tracks.

The final proposal involved C-2 and zoning for heavy industrial use. Fewer sites would be available under this proposal as compared with light industrial zoning. These new sites would be located on Geronimo Avenue between Arizona Avenue and 16th Street.

Gorman also detailed other parts of the proposed ordinances, including the requirement the interior be lighted and visible from the outside 24 hours a day. Dispensaries must also be located in permanent structures, not trailers, mobile homes or cargo containers. There can be no writing prescriptions on-site, and no on-site consumption of food or alcohol. There can also be no outside seating, no drive-through service, and no deliveries of marijuana from the dispensary. Dispensary workers may not have been convicted of any violent crimes or drug offenses, nor could they have worked for another dispensary that had its license suspended or revoked.

A requirement that a security guard be present during business hours caused some discussion. Councilwoman Marion Shontz asked if this requirement was a state rule or a town rule. Police Chief Rod Mendoza said this was a town requirement, and added it was based on advice from the town attorney and was something other communities had done.

Shontz, who is also La Paz County Health Director, said the town was placing more restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries than other drug stores that sold medications that were more addictive. She also asked if the Planning & Zoning Commission had discussed the issue.

Planning & Zoning member Chonna Marshall said the committee hadn't discussed security with the proposed new ordinances, but they had discussed it with the original ordinance. She said the committee members concluded the security requirement was a good idea.

Bouse resident Paula Hunter questioned the need for security guards. She said communities in Colorado and elsewhere had medical marijuana dispensaries and there had been no increases in crime. She said compassionate caregivers who want to help people staff dispensaries.

Hunter praised the state's efforts at insuring that those who need marijuana will be able to get it while keeping criminals out.

Mendoza said some communities had reported problems with dispensaries, and California and Arizona chiefs of police had recommended the security requirement. He said that no one knows for sure what will happen with these dispensaries, and that made having security a good idea. If it turns out security isn't needed, the council could go back and amend the ordinance at a later date.

The council approved the proposed ordinance calling for general commercial and light industrial zoning with a 500-foot limit. They also left the security requirement in place.

Even with the approval of medical marijuana, it is still illegal in Arizona to possess, sell, or grow marijuana without a prescription and without a marijuana card issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: parkerpioneer.net
Author: John Gutekunst
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: River City Newspapers, LLC
Website: Council Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance
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