The city of Maricopa will hold a last public comment session Tuesday night before the city council either approves or rejects a medical marijuana zoning ordinance proposed by city staff.

 The proposed ordinance is the culmination of six public hearings, two previous presentations to council and pages of additional public comment. It would allow a marijuana dispensary to open within the city as long as it more than 500 feet from
 
     Treatment facilities
     Group homes
     Alcohol rehabilitation facilities
     Preschoool, kindergarten, elementary, secondary or high school
     Places of worship
     Public Parks
     Libraries
     Correctional transitional facilities.
 
The proposal also requires the facility be more than 250 feet from any residential property and that those interested in opening a dispensary receive a conditional use permit, which would require business owners to come before council.
 
When the city first began drafting the rules for marijuana dispensaries, staff presented a proposal that required distances of 2,400 feet of a group home or transitional facility,1,500 feet from a school, place of worship, public library or park and 500 feet from of property zoned residential.
 
Those regulations would have made Maricopa one of the most restrictive cities in the state and virtually eliminated the possibility of a dispensary opening here, according to Councilmember Carl Diedrich.
 
If no dispensary were allowed, it would trigger a provision of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, passed as Proposition 203 by Arizona voters in November, that allows patients to grow their own marijuana if they are not near a legal outlet.
 
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act allows towns to establish “reasonable regulations” in regard to the placement and operation of dispensaries and cultivators. The law also put the Arizona Department of Health Services in charge of crafting a medical marijuana facilities application process and governing who is eligible to operate dispensaries.
 
ADHS is working on these rules and the department expects to release the final regulations today.
 
While many cities have received applications from parties interested in opening a dispensary, Maricopa is yet to collect any applications, according Rodolfo Lopez, city planner.
 
If You Go
What: City council meeting
Where: MUSD headquarters, 44150 West Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway
When: Tuesday, March 29: Work session 6 p.m.; regular session 7 p.m.

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