Scottsdale revisiting its medical-marijuana rules

Scottsdale is updating its rules on medical marijuana despite a halt of the statewide regulatory process.  As Arizona continues to grapple with the legality of its voter-approved law, Scottsdale has suggested changes to its ordinance governing marijuana dispensaries and other uses, including smaller “caregiver cultivation” operations.  Arizona voters approved Proposition 203 in November permitting medical-marijuana use.  The program is on hold pending clarification as to whether the public employees who implement Arizona’s law risk federal prosecution.

Arizona and other states have medical-marijuana laws that contradict federal drug laws, which prohibit the cultivation, sale or use of marijuana. The state has placed a hold on processing registration for dispensaries, including dispensary cultivation and processing.  Patients and caregivers are still allowed to grow their own.  The state has approved more than 480 caregiver applications, which allow a person to grow marijuana for up to five patients.

Cities and towns can restrict where caregivers locate their cultivation sites. Scottsdale requires them to obtain a conditional-use permit and operate within the city’s industrial park zoning district, which includes office and warehouse space. Some have complained that the rules are too restrictive.  The city has heard no cases for medical-marijuana caregiver facilities.  More than 10 conditional-use permits have been approved for medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Only two would be eligible for a state-awarded dispensary license.  City planner Greg Bloemberg said Scottsdale is updating its ordinance after hearing suggestions from the community. The City Council would also have to approve the changes.  “We had to put the ordinance together very quickly,” he said. “We kind of figured we would have to revisit it.”

It was unclear whether dispensaries with permits would need to reapply if their plans conflict with the updated rules.  Residents can comment on proposed regulations during an open house from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Scottsdale Airport, 15000 N. Airport Drive.

Among the city’s suggestions are:

– Including more residential zones in the separation requirements for medical-marijuana uses.

– Clarifying what types of schools the city would protect.

– Considering doing away with a separation requirement of 1,230 feet between medical-marijuana uses.

– Revisiting rules governing caregivers, who can cultivate up to 60 plants, or 12 per patient.

Scottsdale does not regulate so-called head shops, which sell items used to smoke marijuana, and training centers, which teach medical-marijuana growing skills. People have questioned whether these retail stores should be allowed. Ryan Hurley, an attorney at the Rose Law Group who represents medical-marijuana clients, said “it is not surprising” the city is revisiting the rules. If Scottsdale tried to retroactively enforce the changes, “we’re certainly going to argue that this is a right guaranteed for out clients,” said Hurley, co-chair of Rose Law’s medical-marijuana practice group.

Hurley said some people have voiced concerns about the lack of required separation between churches and dispensaries. The city does not require a distance between the two. Rich Larsen, who obtained a use permit for a dispensary in Scottsdale,said he was not contacted by the city. He wondered if his operation would have to reapply.

“It’s not that difficult to contact us,” said Larsen, of Scottsdale Homegrown Remedies. “I don’t know if it’s an oversight, or if they’re trying to do something with the doors closed, but it’s not something I feel strongly enough to fight about.”  It’s a “learning process,” said Joel Colley, medical director of the non-profit OF&C Corp., which successfully submitted an application for the first conditional-use permit for a dispensary in Scottsdale.  “Something like this is very unsure as you get into it,” said Colley, of the Virtue Center. “Therefore, you have to keep an open mind and realize people have different concerns.”

via : Az Central

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