Saturday, March 26, 2011

Scottsdale panel recommends first marijuana dispensary site

The first conditional-use permit for a medical-marijuana dispensary in Scottsdale gained the Planning Commission's support Wednesday, but some members said approval "puts the cart before the horse."

By a 3-2 vote, the commission recommended City Council approval of a permit for the Virtue Center, at 7301 E. Evans Road, in the Scottsdale Airpark.

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This is the first of numerous permit applications for medical-marijuana dispensaries the commission will consider through April and May.

The dissenters, commission Chairman Michael D'Andrea and Vice Chairman Ed Grant said approving a city permit before the state issues medical-marijuana dispensary licenses doesn't make sense.

Commission members Matthew Cody, Michael Edwards and Michael Schmitt voted to recommend the permit. Members Jay Petkunas and Erik Filsinger were absent.

The council is expected to consider the conditional-use permit at its April 26 meeting.

The Virtue Center applicants are Drs. Richard Strand, Frank Tindall and Joel Colley, and businessman Norman March, operating under a non-profit entity known as OF&C Corp., based in the Scottsdale. All are longtime residents of Scottsdale.

"These guys really are the dream team," said Court Rich, a Rose Law Group attorney representing the applicants. "If you're going to have a dispensary in Scottsdale, what better than three doctors with such extensive experience in pain management, anesthesia and dealing with cancer patients. This is real medicine and this is what I think the people would want."

The Arizona Department of Health Services will not award medical-marijuana dispensary licenses until this summer. Applications are due May 1-31, and then licenses will be issued within 90 days.

Rich told the commission the Virtue Center would include numerous cameras and other security devices, the front door would be locked at all times and key cards would be required to enter the area where the medical marijuana is stored. Visits would be by appointment only.

Grant said the state hasn't provided cities with any clear guidance, so the commission isn't in a position to recommend conditional-use permits.

The city's text amendment requires that no medical-marijuana facilities be located within 1,320 feet of each other.

"There's no way for us to make a representation that that is, in fact, the case until the state has issued these licenses," Grant said. "We don't have that information yet, and thus can't make the recommendation to our council."

Grant said his decision had nothing to do with the Virtue Center because the application "looks fantastic, very credible and professional."

D'Andrea agreed the commission doesn't have enough information from the state to recommend conditional use permits for dispensaries.

"It's all speculative, no one knows if they're going to get a license, no one knows any of that," he said. "I think for us to get 20-30 applications and then give people the right to do something on their property that they don't even know if they're going to have a license for, I don't feel comfortable making that recommendation to our council."

Schmitt said he doesn't understand how recommending a conditional-use permit for a medical-marijuana dispensary now is any different than when the commission recommends a conditional-use permit for a business to serve alcohol before the owner has obtained a state liquor license.

Next week, the department of health services will release its regulations for implementing the ballot measure that legalized growing, manufacturing and dispensing medical marijuana.

The regulations may provide more guidance for the city, D'Andrea said. However, he still insists that licenses should be granted before conditional-use permits.

"Come to us once you have a license to get the conditional-use permit," he said. "It's all muddy. It's backwards."

The Scottsdale Waterfront also was on the commission's agenda on Wednesday. Members recommended council approval of an amended site plan and modified development standards for a portion of the final phases of the project. Those involve the western portion of the property, known as the Goldwater parcel, which has not drawn any opposition because the developer, Scottsdale Waterfront LLC, has agreed to keep it in accordance with 2003 development standards.

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Mar. 25, 2011 06:50 AM

Scottsdale panel recommends first marijuana dispensary site

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