Unless an appeal is filed, the Town of Marana will become the latest Community Health Analysis Area in the Tucson region to house a medical marijuana dispensary.
On Jan. 30, the Marana Planning Commission voted 4-1 in favor of allowing a Conditional Use Permit for Nature Med, a 6,220-square-foot facility with on-site cultivation.
Terry Fehrmann opposed the measure.
The dispensary will be located in a preexisting building at 5390 W. Ina Road, an industrial designation on 1.73 acres.
According to Town Spokesman Rodney Campbell, the Planning Commission serves as the authorizing entity on approval. The item will only go before council if an appeal is filed. Starting from the approval date on Jan. 30, opponents have 15 days to file an appeal.
As of the time of the public meeting, no complaints had been filed by the owners of neighboring properties or the public regarding the permit.
Nature Med will join the likes of three other Tucson medical marijuana dispensaries, known as Green Halo. Those facilities are located at the intersections of Wilmot and Interstate 10, Broadway and Kolb, and Oracle and River.
According to Marana Planner Robert Clements, the applicant for Nature Med is in compliance with zoning code and the Marana General Plan.
“Pursuant to title eight of the Town of Marana land development code, a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation location shall be at least 2,000 feet from other medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation locations, or residential drug rehabilitation facilities,” he said.
Code also states the business must not be within 1,000 feet of an educational or childcare facility, public library, public park, church, or facilities dedicated to family entertainment or recreation.
Security measures are also being taken for the project, including a security fence, state-of-the-art electronic security system with high resolution monitoring equipment, access controls and panic buttons, as well as an in-house security guard.
When asked, Ken Sobel, President/ Managing Partner of Green Halo and representative for Nature Med, told the Planning Commission that to his knowledge, no problems have arisen relating to medical marijuana facilities currently in Tucson.
However, according to an article in the Tucson Citizen published last July, that statement is not entirely true.
The article details how on two separate occasions, officers from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s Counter Narcotics Alliance entered a Green Halo, “tearing apart a costly grow room, smashing lights and ventilation equipment, cutting down plants, (and) intimidating the staff… They took ‘evidence’ including stacks of blank patient forms (but no patient records), the security cameras (but not the video), and the big-screen television from the waiting room, which was used for medical-cannabis education.”
It should also be noted that in a previous interview with longtime Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (who initiated the CNA task force), Dupnik referred to medical marijuana as “a hoax.”
However, given the fact voters approved Prop. 203 in 2010 legalizing medical marijuana at the state level, there is little local police will be able to do so long as dispensary owners are compliant with state regulation.
That doesn’t mean dispensaries won’t be subject to routine checkups by local police to ensure adherence to such regulations.
“From the standpoint of is it possible if a dispensary goes in Marana, which appears will be the case, that it could be subject to inspections, absolutely,” said Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema. “Could it be subject to search warrants under the federal government? Yes.”
But for the Marana Police Department, the biggest concern relates to another potential problem.
“For us, the concern is the possible criminal activity that could take place in the form of a robbery to break in and steal the product,” said Rozema.
Local dispensary owners also have the federal government to worry about, as federal law prohibits the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
For now though, it doesn’t appear President Barack Obama is too concerned with the issue. On a radio talk show recently, Obama dismissed the matter as a top priority, citing the severity of some of the other problems facing the nation.
Ironically, much of the delay in dispensaries manifesting in Arizona has come from litigation relating to the potential of federal intervention.
That seems to be changing now – perhaps the result of such states as Colorado and Washington joining the ranks of those to recently legalize use of the drug – though legislation in those two states more boldly rejects the federal Controlled Substances Act by also allowing marijuana for recreational use.
When it comes to the business side of things, Campbell said Nature Med is another example that businesses of all sorts are seeking Marana as a place to open their doors.
“We look at it as a sign of our community getting bigger,” he said. “We’re going to have all types of businesses that want to locate here as the community gets larger. This is a business, and just like any other, it wants to be located in a heavily- populated area.”
Currently, Marana is designated two Community Health Analysis Areas where dispensaries could be opened. Once the Town hits a population of 50,000, a third dispensary could be allotted.
In the public meeting last week, Jim Dyer, a former attorney and ongoing victim of multiple sclerosis, told the Planning Commission that medical marijuana has been a “Godsend” for him and his family. Dyer detailed how he attempted using muscle relaxers to ease the pain of the disease, but to no avail.
Chair Norman Fogel, Vice Chair Marcia Jakab, and Commissioners Steve Miklosi and Richard Miller voted in favor of the dispensary. Commissioner Terry Fehrmann was the lone dissenter.
Other diseases that can qualify for a medical marijuana prescription include Hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, HIV, AIDS, cancer, and agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease.