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Tempe Gets 48 Applications for Marijuana Dispensaries

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Tempe's central Valley location and proximity to the nation's largest university campus at 58,371 students has turned the 41-square mile city into a magnet for medical-marijuana entrepreneurs.

Although the state has only approved Tempe for two medical marijuana dispensaries, the city's zoning department has received 48 applications.

That's almost as many as Phoenix, which had 65 applications. Of that amount, 24 have applied for a use permit, which is required to open a dispensary in Phoenix.

Thirty-four applicants have been sent letters letting them know their location does not meet Tempe's code or that the site they applied for was already approved for an earlier applicant.

Larry Tom, a Phoenix planner handling medical-marijuana applications, said that as of Thursday, a hearing officer has approved 11 dispensaries for a use permit and 13 are scheduled for a use-permit hearing.

Reviewing applications and answering questions on the in-and-out of Tempe's medical-marijuana regulations, has become nearly a full-time job for Ryan Levesque, a senior planner for Tempe's Community Development Department.

"There's a new enterprise business out there and everyone's trying to get their foot in the door," Levesque said.

Levesque said that Tempe's central location and access to the thousands of people from across the Valley who work or study at Arizona State University, is appealing to entrepreneurs wanting to open a dispensary.

ASU's large student population will likely not help drive business, considering many of the patients seeking doctor approval are older, said Jamie Brewer, a medical assistant with Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Center. Such approval is required under state law. The center opened in December and only sees patients seeking physicians' approval to use medical-marijuana to treat their illness.

"We're getting thousands of patients . . . (and) actually, the majority are 55 and older," Brewer said, adding that patients' illnesses range from cancer to chronic pain.

As of Thursday, Tempe has approved five dispensary sites. An additional nine are in the review process, but likely to get approved, Levesque said.

Unlike Phoenix, Tempe does not require a use permit. If the applicant met the zoning requirements outlined in the application process and the site they applied for meets Tempe City Code, the applicant gets a letter of approval from the city.

Tempe's zoning regulations allow dispensaries in industrial and commercial sites. Growing facilities are allowed only in industrial sites. Other restrictions include not allowing dispensaries or growing sites within 1,320 feet of a child-care facility, school, church, park, library or public community building.

Once approved by Tempe, a dispensary business would still need a lease on a building, which has been difficult for some dispensaries. Some Arizona real-estate brokers have said that landowners are reluctant to lease the business space because they are worried that dispensaries may run into legal hurdles once open.

Starting June 1, the Arizona Department of Health Services will accept applications for dispensaries.

To ensure potential patients across the state would have access to a dispensary, the Arizona Department of Health Services decided to approve sites according to the state's Community Health Analysis Areas. The areas were determined in 2005 by the state's public health statistics team. The team divided the state into 126 Community Health Analysis Areas so that the health department could analyze data across Arizona for disease-monitoring programs.

Tempe has two Community Health Analysis Areas, so the state will allow two dispensaries.

Levesque said that a cursory survey of potential property where a dispensary could open showed Tempe could have at least 18 dispensaries, if not for the state cap. Once the state issues a medical-marijuana dispensary license, which is expected to happen by late summer, the business owner returns to Tempe with the license.

If Tempe had approved the site, the dispensary could open after it had the proper building permits and showed that it had a signed lease for the approved site

Levesque expects dispensary sites open in Tempe by November or December.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: azcentral.com
Author: Dianna M. Náñez
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: azcentral.com
Website: Tempe gets 48 applications for marijuana dispensaries
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