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Peoria Drafts Policy on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Daily Dose 2010-12-01 0 comments

By Sonu Munshi, published in The Arizona Republic

After a close count, Arizona became the 15th State to officially recognize the medicinal benefits of marijuana for their people of their state. (Photo credit: NORML)

Don’t expect home delivery service of medical marijuana in Peoria.

With the passage of Proposition 203 legalizing marijuana for medical use, Peoria officials have prepared a draft policy in anticipation of requests to open a dispensary or a cultivation facility.

The proposed ordinance places some guidelines and restrictions for operators and cultivators, including requirements to apply for a special city permit and maintain a specific distance from such places as schools, day care facilities and homes.

State law has some provisions under the legalization law but cities can draft more specific regulations. City officials said they looked at a model ordinance prepared by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and tried to learn from other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The ordinance is set to go before the City Council for preliminary discussion Dec. 7, followed by a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing Dec. 16. The City Council is slated to vote on the ordinance Jan. 18. All meetings are open to the public but public comment will be allowed only at the planning commission meeting and January council meeting.

Laura Oxley, Arizona Department of Health Services spokeswoman, said the agency expects to start reviewing applications from people who want to operate a dispensary or use medical marijuana by April. Cities should have ordinances in place by then if they want a say about facilities in their communities, she said.

Under state law, no more than 124 dispensaries can open across Arizona. At least one has to open in each county.

Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp said he expects the city to get three to four dispensaries. While state law allows medical-marijuana cardholders to grow their own pot if they are not within 25 miles of a dispensary, he doesn’t expect that situation to arise in Peoria.

“I would be surprised if in Peoria anyone would be more than 25 miles from a dispensary,” he said.

Peoria’s proposed ordinance allows dispensaries to locate in commercial-zoned areas while cultivation facilities could be located in areas zoned industrial. For both, a special permit would be required, similar to what’s needed to open a bar.

Kemp said state law already places some prohibitions such as no “drive-through” dispensaries and at least a 500-foot separation from schools. Peoria is adding to the restriction, specifying that dispensaries be placed 1,000 feet from schools, day-care facilities, liquor stores and bars and at least 200 feet from homes.

Cultivation facilities would not be allowed to advertise dispensaries or sell the drug.

City officials said they have drawn from other states’ experience with medical marijuana, including California and Colorado.

In California, parking appeared to have been a major issue at the facilities, so Peoria’s permit process would ensure there is enough parking.

Kemp said neighboring businesses in other states have complained the pot next door smells.

Peoria will address that by checking that there is adequate ventilation and air filtration, Chris Jacques, the city’s planning manager, said.

Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said municipal officials have a lot of questions about how to handle medical-marijuana facilities.

“Certainly there are a lot more questions about further implementation, but there is enough time for cities to have their local ordinances in place,” Strobeck said.

Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett, who is philosophically opposed to medical marijuana, said he has “a lot of concerns” about the location and number of facilities that might open.