VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 10   |   MARCH 9 – 15, 2011


Marijuana dispensary hopefuls eye Cave Creek

Staff seeks direction from council to draft regulations

CAVE CREEK – During Monday night’s council meeting, Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said municipalities have been grappling with a host of questions since the passage of Proposition 203, the Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), in order to form ordinances for dispensaries and cultivation, as the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) continues to iron out its final rules and regulations, which, according to provisions of the MMA, must be completed by April 13.

Pontrelli said staff was seeking guidance from council as to what direction they wished to take in drafting an ordinance.

She provided council with sample ordinances, some of which were extremely lengthy and restrictive, while others address only zoning districts in which dispensaries may operate.

ADHS will select one applicant for a state dispensary license in each of the 124 Community Health Analysis Areas (CHAA) by random drawing of applicants in each of the CHAAs.

According to the ADHS, CHAAs were developed in 2005 as “relatively small, community based geographic units with a large enough population base to do statistical analysis.”

Carefree and the portion of Cave Creek that lies north of Carefree Highway, are included in the Scottsdale North CHAA, which extends south to Shea Boulevard, west to approximately 24th Street north of Carefree Highway, west to Scottsdale Road south of Carefree Highway, and east to Fountain Hills.

The portion of Cave Creek that is south of Carefree Highway is in the Desert View/North Gateway CHAA.

ADHS will accept applications for dispensary certificates beginning in May, with selections announced in the summer.

If more than one application is received for a certain CHAA, ADHS will hold a random drawing to select the applicant to which it will award a certificate to operate a dispensary. If there is only one applicant, that applicant will be awarded a certificate.

Pontrelli told council they would have to allow for dispensaries somewhere but could designate what zoning areas they want them in and any other requirements.

She said caregiver cultivation allows for growing up to five plants per patient and up to 72 plants for qualifying patients.

But, basically, Pontrelli was trying to get an idea as to how restrictive the town wanted its ordinance to be.

GORDON HAMILTONDuring public comment, Gordon Hamilton (pictured, right), a Tucson businessman, said he was part of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, which backed the medical marijuana initiative, and stated the law allows personal cultivation if a qualifying patient does not live within 25 miles of a dispensary.

He mentioned having an association with a cancer clinic in Scottsdale where they plan to do trials and studies on the benefits of medical marijuana and asked that council not demonize its use.

Hamilton formed American Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, in September 2010 for the purpose of cultivating and distributing medical marijuana.

He said he was looking at locations in remote areas, such as Cave Creek, where there would be less competition.

A woman from the Scottsdale clinic also spoke to say patients undergoing cancer care are subjected to nausea and pain. While opiates are available to alleviate those symptoms, she said they lessen the patients’ quality of life.

She also said their patients are currently using marijuana illegally and “we’d like them to come out of the closet.”

doug craneDoug Crane (pictured, right) said he was a Cave Creek resident and cancer survivor and stated his “team of investors” had three locations for where they were going submit applications and suggested the town allow for a dispensary in the middle of town, “right in the town core.”

Crane, who actually lives in Tonto Hills, which is located in unincorporated Maricopa County, formed New Leaf Dispensary, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, in late February with Priscilla Wolfe, who resides at the same address in Tonto Hills.

Kim Brennan said, “If this is a use you’re thinking of allowing in Cave Creek, the town core is the way to go.”

She asked council to be lenient as to setbacks from residential.

Another man told council he’d been to several dispensaries in a number of states and said, “If Cave Creek doesn’t have a dispensary people will cultivate their own.”

A representative from Premier Insurance Group asked the town not to require excessive security.

Cave Creek Town Magistrate George Preston, who limped up to the podium due to spraining his ankle that morning, said, “We’ve come a long way” from the stereotype we’ve carried about marijuana smokers.

He said his mother had cancer and when a neighbor offered her marijuana to help ease her suffering, Preston said, “Of course she turned it down.”

He said it is hard to see people suffer like that.

Preston also said he learned a lot about the new law that evening from all of those who commented.

Mayor Vincent Francia, in acknowledging Preston’s sprained ankle and his reading of the new law, which so broadly defined who would qualify as a medical marijuana patient, said Preston would probably qualify because of the pain caused by his sprained ankle.

Wolfe, who also spoke in Carefree, which adopted a somewhat restrictive ordinance last week, said a dispensary would bring jobs to the community and touted the prominence of natural medicine. She stated, “It’s a new era.”

Francia said it sounded as though council was leaning toward an ordinance that designated the zoning district.

Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch said his father suffered from breast cancer and the chemotherapy treatments gave him nausea and lack of appetite, symptoms he believed medical marijuana would have helped.

He asked the town not do anything that would preclude the location of a dispensary in the town.

Councilman Jim Bruce said having a dispensary would clear up some of the cultivation issues. He said they needed to look at zoning and keep the possibility of cultivation to a minimum.

Councilman Adam Trenk said, “I’m kind of intimately involved in this issue with my job. We should have a security plan … maybe have the town marshal sign off on it.”

Trenk said a dispensary should probably end up in the commercial core.

Councilman Steve LaMar stated, “We don’t have to be restrictive to the point a dispensary wouldn’t come to Cave Creek.”

Bunch pointed out if the town had cultivation, the smell is repulsive to a lot of people, and said a dispensary would be preferable.

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said, “We’re looking at two sets of regulations, caregiver cultivation and dispensary.”

Francia asked if cultivation could be controlled.

Pontrelli said the town could restrict it so it wasn’t allowed in residential, for example.

Trenk indicated there was some urgency to bringing an ordinance forward and perhaps passing it with an emergency clause.

If no ordinance is in place at the time a dispensary certificate is issued, it would mean it would be able to locate just about anywhere in town without any specific restrictions, such as setbacks from schools, churches or residential zoning.

While Francia stated the town was not going to pass an ordinance with an emergency clause, he asked Abujbarah how soon an ordinance could come before council.

Abujbarah said the town would have to advertise the public hearings and bring it to the planning commission and then to council, which would take approximately one month.

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