Pima preps for pot proposition's passage - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Pima preps for pot proposition's passage

County zoning rules would limit medical marijuana shops to commercial zones

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Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 11:00 pm

Pima County has enacted new zoning regulations in anticipation that voters approve a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in November.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a raft of zoning amendments on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Arizona voters in November will decide the fate of a medical marijuana initiative that would allow doctors and other medical practitioners to recommend marijuana as a treatment for specific ailments.

Pima County and other local governments across the state have been quick to amend zoning codes to limit the areas in which medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers can operate.

The approved changes in Pima County prompted questions about patient access, proximity to schools and substance abuse treatment centers, and the potential impact on local communities.

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall told supervisors that the initiation of zoning restrictions was a good start to stem the proliferations of medical marijuana dispensaries.

"Without zoning regulations, we can see this is really a disaster waiting to happen," LaWall said.

The county attorney also made numerous comparisons to California, a state that has had medical marijuana laws for more than a decade. California, however, has drawn criticisms for what some view as lax oversight and scant regulation of who can receive marijuana prescriptions.

LaWall added to the criticisms, saying spikes in crime have followed in the wake of medical marijuana laws.

"Dispensary sites in other states have become virtual magnets for criminal activity," LaWall said.

Other representatives from LaWall's office, the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff's Department all spoke in favor of the zoning regulations.

Oro Valley resident Kimberly Haslett disputed the comparison to the Golden State, and said LaWall and other critics want to scare voters into rejecting the ballot proposition.

"I would also like to remind Ms. LaWall that we are in Arizona, not California," Haslett said. "I would like people to vote from facts and not fears."

The stay-at-home mom said she intends to open a marijuana dispensary if the proposition passes. Haslett said she's watched as many of her family members succumb to cancer and other ailments, but could have benefitted from marijuana.

In particular, Haslett said an aunt received relief from symptoms of bone cancer through marijuana use prior to her death. Family members took legal risks to provide the aunt with marijuana.

"Her family had to sneak around to find it for her," Haslett said.

John Gettel also addressed the board in support of medical marijuana.

"I am a medical marijuana patient," Gettel told the supervisors. He said a car crash a decade earlier left him debilitated and temporarily unable to walk. Gettel said the pain killers doctors prescribed didn't help his pain, and didn't allow him to regulate his dosages the way marijuana can.

"Marijuana is titratable, that means you can regulate the amount you need to recover," Gettel said.

The zoning rules the board of supervisors adopted would limit dispensaries and cultivations centers to commercial and industrial areas.

The awaiting regulations also would prevent dispensaries or cultivation centers from opening within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, libraries or substance abuse treatment facilities.

The possibility that medical marijuana dispensaries would be pushed to the fringes prompted questions about access for ailing patients.

"My concern is we're making patients go out of their way," Supervisor Richard Elías said. He said the regulation could impose "a considerable hardship" on sick people who lack mobility.

Under provisions of the initiative, qualified patients would be allowed to grow their own marijuana if they lived more than 25 miles from a registered dispensary.

A certified caregiver also could grow and deliver marijuana to patients.

Despite the concerns the zoning issue raised, the board approved the changes unanimously.

County rules

Medical marijuana dispensaries

• Must be in CB2 commercial zones

• Must maintain 2,000-foot setback from other dispensaries

• Can't open within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, libraries or substance abuse centers

• Require a Board of Supervisors-approved Type 3 Conditional Use Permit

Off-site marijuana cultivation centers

• Must be in CB2 commercial zones

• Must maintain 2,000-foot setback from other cultivation centers

• Can't open within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, libraries or substance abuse centers

Designated caregiver cultivation center

• Same regulations as off-site cultivation sites

• Cultivation area limited to 250 square feet

Qualified patient cultivation

• If at a patient's primary residence, grow area would be limited to 50 square feet

• If off-site, limited to CB2 Commercial area and require Type 3 Conditional Use Permit

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