If medical pot passes, town eyes 2-outlet limit - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

If medical pot passes, town eyes 2-outlet limit

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Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:18 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

If voters approve Proposition 203 in November, Marana should limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries within its borders to two, the Marana Planning Commission is recommending to the town council.

Planners are sending along a proposal from Town Attorney Frank Cassidy that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries as conditional uses in Marana's regional commercial, light industrial and heavy industry zones. Offsite medical marijuana cultivation would be allowed in Marana's agricultural, light industrial and heavy industry zones. The proposed rule also imposes special setback, performance and application requirements.

Cassidy has vocally urged Marana decision-makers to put medical marijuana regulations in place as soon as possible. Already, he told the planning commission at its Sept. 29 meeting, companies are "lined up to get into this business" should Prop 203 pass on Nov. 2. If Marana does not enact restrictions, "I am concerned we would not be able to close that door," Cassidy said. "I have urged the town to be very proactive on this."

"How many could we be looking at?" planning chairman Norm Fogel asked. "Shouldn't it be prudent of us to set a limit?"

"An outright prohibition … probably exceeds the authority," Cassidy said.

Statewide, Proposition 203 would allow a total of 120 medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona, with the requirement of at least one in every county, and the possibility of one for every 10 pharmacies.

If there are 120 dispensaries spread across Arizona's estimated population of 6 million, that would mean one for every 50,000 residents, town staff concluded. As of July 1, 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates Marana has a population near 35,124.

"The question is, is this necessary?" commission vice chairman Gary Pound asked.

"It is," Cassidy believes. "There's nothing to keep five of them from coming here if we don't adopt the regulation."

"We're looking at one or two, realistically, if at all," Pound said. "It seems it's self-limiting, by the number of permits the state's going to issue. I don't know why we need to limit it."

Cassidy said some Arizona communities are "waiting" for the results of the election, and the subsequent effective date of the law. "I'm not that comfortable with that," he said.

"I just don't want to have Marana," and its invitation to "come grow with us," become "a joke," Fogel said. "There's no benefit I can see at all."

"There is no economic benefit to the town from this at all?" Pound asked.

"It does not appear," Cassidy said.

One medical marijuana dispensary would likely preclude private marijuana growing in Marana, engineer Keith Brann said. As proposed, people with medical marijuana prescriptions who live more than 25 miles from a dispensary could grow their own marijuana.

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