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Phoenix to Consider 1st Requests for Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries

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The rush is on to open medical-marijuana dispensaries.

On Thursday, a Phoenix hearing officer will consider nine requests for use permits to open medical-marijuana operations.

Eight of the applications are for dispensaries and one is for cultivation. The dispensaries are scattered around town, while the cultivation request is for a warehouse in an industrial area near Interstate 10 and 40th Street, south of Sky Harbor Airport.

Larry Tom, who is handling medical-marijuana questions for the city's Planning and Development Department, said 42 sites have been pre-registered with the department, while about a dozen have actually filed for use permits.

Phoenix is allowed to have a maximum of 19 dispensaries. Some of the community-health analysis areas being used by the Arizona Department of Health Services to situate the dispensaries are shared with other communities.

Tom said some of the applicants already have been notified that their proposed locations violate the city's spacing rules.

The spacing rules dictate the distance the dispensaries have to be separated from schools, churches, community centers, homes and parks. They also must be at least a mile from each other.

Tom said the operations deemed to violate the separation rules could apply for a variance. To win the variance, the operators must prove special circumstances involving their property. None has applied for variances yet.

Arizona voters authorized the use of medical marijuana in November.

Medical-marijuana operations must have their city permits in hand before applying for a state license to operate.

The health department is in the midst of developing its rules. Fifty-eight pages of draft rules dictate the actual operations of the dispensaries, cultivation sites and infusion sites, which involve infusing the drug into foods or beverages.

The rules address operation of the sites, patient registration, the medical conditions for which medical marijuana is approved, and regulations for changing any of the documents.

The department plans to finalize its rules at the end of March. Licensing will begin on May 1 and continue for a month.

The city's rules vary depending on the type of operation. Cultivation facilities are restricted to S-1 and S-2 zoning, which covers farms, ranches and other land, and industrial areas.

Dispensaries, however, may be placed in virtually any commercial site, provided they meet all the requirements.

They are restricted to 2,000 square feet, and must be 250 feet from a residentially zoned parcel, a quarter-mile from schools, parks and community centers, and 500 feet from places of worship.

One applicant, Dr. Ronald Barnes, hoped to locate in a strip mall near Arizona 51 and Shea Boulevard in northeast Phoenix. But according to property owner Bert Frimmel, he and Barnes have been notified that the site is too close to a day-care facility on 32nd Street south of Shea.

Frimmel is uncertain whether Barnes will seek a variance, but he needs tenants in the center.

"The economy has hit us hard," he said. "I don't have a problem with medical marijuana if it is a tenant who can pay rent."

Barnes also has a request in for a dispensary near Interstate 17 and McDowell Road.

Other applicants for dispensaries are Robert Tovmasyan with Rona Health and Wellness Center Inc.; Craig Pittman of Rising Phoenix Remedies Inc.; Michelle Gilmore; Michael Marsillo; Todd Miller; and Kip Criter of Solace Medical.

The cultivation applicant is Alternative Caregivers LLC, represented by John Vinson of Vinson Realty in Tempe.

Vinson said he would lease the building to a grower, but he has not yet signed one up. At least two growers, one from California and one from Colorado, have contacted him.

Vinson said the process has been difficult, and he might have to withdraw his application. He has questions about whether the $1,400 application fee is refundable because he does not have enough time to run a background check on either of the growers and cannot get an engineering study of his property as quickly as he would need to.

Generally, he said, he would be OK having a marijuana cultivator as a tenant, in part because they would have to meet the state's security requirements for the property.

If he could be confident in the operation, he said, "It would possibly be a good tenant to have."

News Hawk- GuitarMan313 420 MAGAZINE
Source: azcentral.com
Author: Michael Clancy
Contact: Contacting The Arizona Republic
Copyright: azcentral.com
Website: Phoenix to consider 1st requests for medical-marijuana dispensaries
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