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Man's Dream of Tempe Medical-Pot Dispensary is a Risk

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Charles Greenbaum is banking on a dream business that could go up in smoke if the state denies him a medical-marijuana dispensary license.

Even before voters approved Proposition 203, the law legalizing medical marijuana and medical-marijuana dispensaries, Greenbaum was researching the industry. As the owner of a small roofing company, Greenbaum knew the ins and outs of opening and operating a small business in Arizona.

But the Chandler resident says he never imagined what he was in for when he decided to invest in opening a medical-marijuana dispensary in Tempe.

Now, with nearly $100,000 invested in Greentree Herbal Therapy Center, Greenbaum says he can't stomach the idea of losing his life savings.

"I'll be out on a street corner with a sign," he said, only half-joking, of what will happen to his finances if the state does not license his business.

Most of the $100,000 has gone to attorney and planning design fees. That doesn't include the hours he and his business partner, Craig Waldrep, put into trying to find a dispensary site that Tempe would approve.

After months of searching, they found a prime site on McClintock Drive across the street from Tempe Marketplace, close to Arizona State University and major Valley freeways.

Like many entrepreneurs looking to become pioneers in Arizona's medical-marijuana industry, Greenbaum admits it can be nerve-racking at times investing in a new industry where so many governmental agencies are trying to craft rules.

"Everyone at Tempe has been really great, though," Waldrep said. "I think they understand that all we're trying to do is open a legal business."

Kris Krane, managing partner of 4Front Advisors, a consultant company that helps would-be dispensary owners apply for a state license, said entering the business is not for the weak-hearted. He thinks the reason the dispensary industry has been confusing for some is because Arizona is the first state to try and adopt such a large-scale medical-marijuana law.

"First, this is a brand new industry, not just for Arizona, but really nationwide," he said. "And no state has yet attempted to do what Arizona is attempting to do here with certifying medical marijuana and allowing dispensaries at the same time."

As for the investment, Krane said would-be dispensary owners who try to apply for a license on their own could spend about $20,000, while those who use consultants and lawyers could spend as much as $150,000.

"You have to be honest with clients," he said. "We tell anybody looking to get involved that there is a big risk involved because in Arizona there is a lottery component."

The Arizona Department of Health Services will allow 126 medical-marijuana dispensaries to open in Arizona. But the state has restricted regions where each facility can open. For example, in Tempe the state approved one facility for the northern region of the city and one for the southern region.

That's a problem for the 50 or so applicants who have applied for the two sites. Tempe has denied more than 30 applicants but still expects to approve about 15 dispensary sites.

Those sites will be able to apply for a state license beginning June 1.

Laura Oxley, a DHS spokeswoman, said applications will be evaluated competitively based on state-set criteria. If more than two Tempe applications meet those criteria, the two dispensaries to receive a license will be selected randomly.

Tempe expects dispensaries to open by November or December.

In the meantime, Greenbaum and his business partner Waldrep are dotting their I's and crossing their T's, trying to craft the perfect license application.

They credit their attorney, DarinSender, with helping them navigate the state and city rules surrounding the dispensaries. As an attorney with zoning-law experience, Sender said she got many calls from people seeking her help with opening a dispensary.

"Most of them wanted to find out how they could get around the law," she said, adding that she took on Greenbaum and Waldrep as clients because they wanted to "get through the law."

Greenbaum says he wants Arizona to be the model state for medical marijuana, and he hopes Greentree will become the model dispensary. He says the legalization of medical marijuana is personal.

"My father used it legally in Hawaii," he said. "I had to move him here when he got sick, and he couldn't use it anymore. I've seen how it helps my dad. I think everyone should have that chance."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: azcentral.com
Author: Dianna M. Náñez
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: azcentral.com
Website: Man's dream of Tempe medical-pot dispensary is a risk
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