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Medical-Marijuana Zoning Rules Pinch Dispensaries

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The era of medical marijuana is upon us, but rules imposed by the state and cities suggest that most Arizonans will never lay eyes on a marijuana dispensary, let alone a growing operation or infusion facility.

Because of restrictive zoning rules, most medical-marijuana sites will be situated in industrial areas, far from prying eyes, foot traffic and passing cars.

Cities made every effort to create distance between the marijuana operations and homes, schools, churches, parks and other similar facilities.

As a result, even though medical-marijuana locations are allowed in zoning categories that cover most shopping areas, the distancing rules pose a serious hurdle.

"The main issue for potential owners is that it is hard to find appropriate sites, considering the distance requirements," said Jordan Rose, an attorney who is representing numerous clients who want to get into the medical-marijuana business.

"While people may see that dozens of sites are being approved for use permits, they don't see the hundreds, maybe thousands of sites that have been vetted and rejected," he said. "It's a complicated analysis."

The analysis is so complex that when Phoenix puts out a map showing possible sites, people who have explored some of those locations have found that perhaps a church or a day-care center is too close. Either that or property owners decline to lease to medical-marijuana sites, fearing legal repercussions.

Rose says it appears cities want the facilities to be located in high-traffic areas for security reasons. But the spacing requirements end up forcing the facilities into areas with little car or foot traffic, off the beaten path.

Andrew Myers of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project expected and supports the tight restrictions. He suspects the rules will ease up over time, assuming the medical-marijuana system works properly.

It could be a tough hill to climb when ordinances such as Tempe's repeat several of the arguments against medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana "is correlated to myriad negative secondary effects," the Tempe ordinance reads, "such as an increase in violent armed robberies and murders, burglaries, traffic, noise and drug dealing."

Every municipality has similar rules, if not similar rhetoric to the Tempe ordinance. The rules typically address security issues and hours of operation as well as zoning areas and distance requirements.

Rules from the Arizona Department of Health Services restrict medical-marijuana facilities to one per Community Health Analysis Area but otherwise focus on operators and participants in the medical-marijuana process. The state has 126 CHAAs, 18 of them on tribal lands.

More than 40 of the sites are in the Valley, and almost half are in Phoenix.

Numerous problems are likely to arise. For example:

- Paradise Valley is considering a facility at a medical office at Tatum and Shea boulevards - a site that adjacent Phoenix probably would not have allowed. Similar problems could arise at other locations along CHAA boundaries.

- With restricted sites available, numerous operators have applied - and received - permits for sites that are relatively close to each other, despite the distancing requirements. For example, along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, close to a dozen sites are clustered. But the chances of any of them ever doing business are relatively slim. With one facility per CHAA, the state health department will choose the operator by lottery.

- Zoning restrictions will take some CHAAs out of the picture entirely. Such is the case with the central Mesa CHAA, bounded by Broadway and Brown roads, Country Club Drive and Bush Highway. No sites within that area fit the city's zoning ordinance, so no medical-marijuana facilities will be allowed.

- None of the zoning rules appears to allow challenges by medical-marijuana foes. Although permit hearings for most sites have seen no opposition, the rules give hearing officers, planning committees or city councils little leeway to deny requests, despite objection from such entities as golf-equipment manufacturer Ping in Phoenix or business owners in the Scottsdale Airpark. If the site conforms with the rules, the permits, letters of approval or other such documents are handed out.

Medical-marijuana operations are tightly restricted by rules from virtually every city in metro Phoenix, rules that limit the sites to heavier commercial or industrial zones, with distance requirements from homes, schools and churches, for example. Cities also require separation from other marijuana operations.

Arizona will allow one user within each Community Health Analysis Area, with 42 in the Valley. The Arizona Department of Health Services will select the sites by lottery in mid-August.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: azcentral.com
Author: Michael Clancy
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: azcentral.com
Website: Medical-marijuana zoning rules pinch dispensaries
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