KINGMAN - People interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary within the city limit may be facing some strict guidelines. The city of Kingman Planning and Zoning Commission recommended adopting the most stringent out of three possible zoning recommendations for the dispensaries Tuesday night.
Arizona voters passed Proposition 203 in November, which allows the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions. It also allows for the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries and for the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes in the state. But the new law leaves the question of where the dispensaries can be located up to local governments.
The commission had three issues to tackle before it came to its decision. First, if the city would allow dispensaries in the city and under what conditions. Second, how to deal with the cultivation of marijuana within the city limits.
Third, the state has to have the rules governing dispensaries, the issuance of medical marijuana cards and the cultivation of marijuana in place before the end of March.
Which means that if the city wants to put a zoning ordinance regulating dispensaries in place, it must have it approved by the City Council before the end of February in order to meet a 30-day referendum period on all new city ordinances.
The Planning and Zoning Department gave the commission three possible zoning alternatives for the dispensaries.
The first alternative was the most restrictive. It would allow for the cultivation of marijuana only in a rural/residential zoning districts. The area would have to be at least 2,500 feet from any alternative residential zoning. Dispensaries would only be allowed in I-2, heavy industrial zoning areas. Dispensaries could be no larger than 100-square feet, and sales of marijuana could only take place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dispensaries would have to be at least 2,500 feet from any school, place of worship, public park, mental health facility or substance abuse rehabilitation center. It would also have to be at least 2,500 feet from any residentially zoned area.
The second alternative still confined cultivation to rural/residential zoning but reduced the distance from other residential districts to 1,500 feet. It would allow dispensaries in C-3 commercial, I-1 and I-2, heavy industrial zoned areas. Dispensaries could be no larger than 1,000 square feet in size and the hours of operation would be expanded to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. They would also have to be more than 1,500 feet from the nearest school, church, public park, etc., and more than 500 feet from the nearest residentially zoned area.
The third alternative would have the same cultivation standards as the second but would allow dispensaries in C-2 commercial zones and drop the distance between a dispensary and school, church, etc., to 500 feet, and 250 feet from a residentially zoned area. The hours of operation would be the same as the second alternative but would be expanded to include weekend operations and the possibility of a drive-thru window.
Most of the discussion centered around whether dispensaries should be allowed within the city limits.
None of the commissioners seemed to be keen on allowing dispensaries within the city limits.
Development Services Director Gary Jeppson said the new law states that there can only be one dispensary for every 10 pharmacies in the state. The latest estimate puts that at 124 dispensaries for the entire state. So the city could have one dispensary or many depending on how many people from the area apply for permits, he said.
Lacy asked who would police the cultivation of marijuana by individuals within the city limits. The city already has a drug problem; would this create more of a problem for the police?
Jeppson pointed out that the new law states that an individual must have state certification to grow marijuana and can only grow it if they are more than 25 miles away from the nearest dispensary.
"We need a lot more information about this," said Kingman resident Harley Pettit. He agreed that the city already had a drug problem and felt that it had the right to refuse to allow dispensaries within the city limits. For example, adult bookstores were not allowed within the city limits.
The city also wouldn't make any money off of the dispensaries because they were non-profit entities according to the new law, he said. Pettit also questioned whether the public could vote on medical issues such as what drugs can be dispensed.
"I think people should be able to get a prescription for this if it helps them, but we do have a drug problem in this town. Who's going to police this? I don't want taxpayers to have to pay for this," Commissioner Allen Mossberg said.
"I don't want to see them in the city limits. I don't think the city needs it," said Commissioner Scott McCoy.
Commission Chair Matt Ladendecker pointed out that even if the city didn't allow dispensaries within the city limits, the city was still going to have to deal with the issue. A dispensary could be approved for an area outside of the city limits, or a resident with medical marijuana card could legally grow marijuana for his own use within the city limits if there wasn't a dispensary within 25 miles of his home, he said. Ladendecker also pointed out that the new law stated that zoning ordinances couldn't be so restrictive as to make it impossible for someone with a marijuana card to gain access to the drug.
"It's going to happen someplace, but it doesn't have to happen within the city limits," McCoy said.
"I'm having a really hard time with this without more information from the state," said Commissioner Sandi Reynolds.
Jeppson explained that the state had until the end of March to come up with the regulations for medical marijuana. The city should have something in place before then in order to accommodate requests for dispensaries and cultivation. He also pointed out that there is nothing in the law that says that the dispensaries must be 25 miles apart. There could be more than one dispensary in one neighborhood, he said.
City Councilwoman Erin Cochran suggested the commission table the idea and ask the city attorney and the chief of police to come and discuss the legal ramifications of the new law.
Jeppson pointed out that the city was under a time crunch in order to get the new ordinance in place before the new law was put into effect.
McCoy asked if the commission could suggest the most restrictive option to City Council and then make changes once a public hearing was held on the matter.
Reynolds made a motion to suggest the first alternative, the most restrictive, to Council. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote.