The city of Maricopa is considering major changes to its draft marijuana zoning ordinance to make it easier for a dispensary to open within city limits.
“I think there is a general feeling among members of the council and the Planning and Zoning Commission that the city would be better served to have a dispensary than patients growing their own marijuana,” said Councilmember Carl Diedrich.
Discussion regarding where a dispensary might be allowed to open in Maricopa took place Monday night during a joint meeting between the city council and the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The meeting was held to air opinions on a draft marijuana dispensary-zoning ordinance that was presented to council in December.
The tentative code restricted facilities in this language: They must be located in a permanent building; they cannot be more than 2,500 square feet; they cannot be located within 2,400 feet of a group home or transitional facility, within 1,500 feet of a school, place of worship, public library or park, or within 500 feet of property zoned residential.
The proposed 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 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.
To adjust the code and allow a pot shop in the city, the two groups asked city staff to work on proposals that show the locations that would be available if zoning restrictions were reduced to 500 feet for all facilities or if restrictions were only placed on school proximity.
If the city council ultimately moves forward with the restrictions only in regard to schools, it is likely a dispensary would need to apply for a conditional use permit, according to Planning and Zoning Commission President Mike Robertson.
Mandating that a business obtain a conditional use permit allows council to grant or withhold final approval on site location.
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 for the product.
ADHS is working on these rules and the department expects to release a second draft of the regulations by Jan. 31 that incorporates pubic comments received during the past month.
Cities have until the end of February to adopt an ordinance on the matter in order to allow for a 30-day referendum period, which must be completed prior to March 30 when ADHS must adopt its own set of regulatory rules for medical marijuana.
The voter-approved initiative allows for 124 marijuana dispensaries statewide. If a person lives more than 25 miles from a dispensary, they are then allowed to grow their own cannabis sativa.