Overlooking concerns that its zoning rules are too restrictive, Scottsdale has passed regulations that control the location and operation of medical-marijuana dispensaries and grow houses.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to pass strict rules that confine marijuana dispensaries and cultivation sites to medical, office and industrial districts. Further, all medical-marijuana establishments will be required to obtain conditional-use permits from the city.
Council members Lisa Borowsky, Suzanne Klapp and Dennis Robbins voted against the regulations as proposed.
Mayor Jim Lane and Council members Bob Littlefield, Linda Milhaven and Ron McCullagh were in favor.
"I think we should start out with very strict limits because we can always relax them," McCullagh said.
After the passage of Proposition 203 in November, Arizona cities and towns are rushing to approve zoning and permit regulations for dispensaries and cultivation sites before the state Department of Health Services finishes drafting medical-marijuana rules this spring.
The measure allows patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to receive up to 2½ ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries or cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants if they live 25 miles or farther from a dispensary.
The law also allows municipalities to pass "reasonable" zoning restrictions.
Lane emphasized the regulations are not a reflection of council members' personal feelings on medical marijuana.
Jason Morris, an attorney with Phoenix-based Withey Morris, told the council that having such narrow rules is a "double-edge sword" because it imposes "stringent" limitations from the outset, making it harder to change the rules.
Morris said there is an opportunity to allow medical-marijuana uses in expanded retail locations on a case-by-case basis.
Instead, the council tightened the laws further.
The original proposal called for conditional-use permits only for establishments in the commercial-office and industrial-park districts. But Littlefield asked that the city also require the permits for the special-campus district, which includes health-care and research facilities. One of the goals is to eliminate competition between districts, he said.
"Our job is to use the discretion we have within the law to try and protect neighborhoods as much as possible," Littlefield said.
Robbins said he favored allowing the uses to operate in special-campus districts without a permit and wanted to address issues of in-home cultivation brought up during the meeting.
Borowsky said she agreed with the need for conditional-use permits but didn't necessarily favor limiting the uses to office buildings.
The permits would restrict dispensaries' hours to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and ban drive-through services, among other rules. The council must approve the permits.
Kira Wauwie, project coordination liaison with the city, called the regulations a "first step." City officials drafted the language based on comments from residents and patients who expressed a desire for "quality" establishments that are safe, she said.
"What we put in place today may need to change in the future," Wauwie said.
Jason Reis of Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Centers said it is important that patients and doctors understand the rules.
Reis supports dispensaries that are easily accessible. He and his partner, Steve Schafer, operate a medical-marijuana certification center at Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard that offers the physicians' certification to legally use the drug.
Since opening 90 days ago, the center has established physician relationships with hundreds of patients ranging from ages 40 to 70, Reis said.
"We obey the draft laws and educate our patients," he said. "The biggest thing we do is we are compassionate."
The centers plan to open locations in Tucson, Cottonwood, Mesa and the West Valley, he said.
Schafer, a longtime sufferer of Crohn's disease, said marijuana "takes the edge off" for patients with debilitating medical conditions.
Phoenix resident David Condolora, 65, takes large amounts of narcotics for pain that inhibit his ability to drive and enjoy life. Because of his limited abilities, access is important, he said.
Condolora has experienced three heart attacks and suffers from massive spinal pain. He visited the Scottsdale Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Center this week in hopes that medical marijuana could reduce his use of narcotics.
"When you retire, you're supposed to be able to play golf," he said. "I can't even drive to see my grandkids."
MORE ON THIS TOPIC
Scottsdale dispensaries and cultivation sites will be restricted to three zoning districts:
• Special campus, which includes hospital, health-care and research facilities.
• Commercial office.
• Industrial park, an employment district that allows manufacturing and processing, including medical offices and limited retail.
by Beth Duckett The Arizona Republic Jan. 26, 2011 01:08 PM
Split Scottsdale council opts for strict medical-pot regulations
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