by Councilwoman Shirley Scott of Ward 4
Arizona State voters passed Proposition 203 in November 2010, otherwise known as the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.” The Arizona Department of Health Services has recently awarded 31 new medical cannabis licenses. The new 31 licensees were selected from a pool of 750 applicants. The owner located at 8901 East Old Vail Road was one of the 31 applicants who received a license from the State of Arizona. The state has ultimate jurisdiction over the Medical Marijuana Program including the following items:
When medical marijuana may be dispensed?
How the facilities are set up and managed?
Who are certified qualifying patients under the state law?
How and when licensed physicians can write prescriptions for qualifying patients?
How many Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are allowed in each community?
What is the minimum distances between dispensaries?
The minimum 500 linear foot separation distance from schools.
The passage of this legislation required the state to establish regulations for the sale and cultivation of marijuana and those state regulations then required that counties, cities, and towns establish regulations to allow for these new businesses to operate within their jurisdictions and comply with state law.
The City of Tucson adopted initial regulations on November 23rd, 2010 and then amended them in 2014 and again in 2016 in order to remain in compliance with state law and to address zoning and business operations issues. All of these mayor and council meetings, which included several public hearings, where the regulations were discussed and adopted were noticed and open to the public. They generated considerable public input and were well covered at the time by news media.
During the public planning process, the mayor and council gave city staff direction to include additional regulatory requirements into the zoning code that established set-back distances for sensitive uses such as schools, churches, registered daycare centers, protective services (e.g., shelters, drug rehabs, emotional counseling centers) and parks and recreational facilities.
Regulations related to the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana are regulated by ordinance # 11346 approved by M&C on February 23rd, 2016. This ordinance allows medical marijuana to be cultivated in I-1 and I-2 industrial zones.
The site in question, at 8901 East Old Vail Road, is located in an I-2 district, and therefore the cultivation of medical marijuana is a permitted use as long as certain conditions are met. The conditions include a requirement that facilities be located a minimum of 500 feet from a K-12 public, private, or charter school.
Additionally, the site is required to go through a zoning compliance review where the Planning and Development Services Department may add site specific conditions to address any needed mitigation. In this case, a condition was added requiring the facility to undertake odor mitigation through additional HVAC controls and/or air scrubbers. Beyond these municipal regulations, the site must also meet all Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) requirements of cultivation facilities, which includes the provision for all cultivation to be done in an enclosed, locked facility.
It should also be noted that the ordinance that regulates medical marijuana zoning in the City of Tucson is set to sunset on January 31st, 2019. The Planning and Development Services Department (PDSD) are currently reviewing the regulations of the ordinance to determine if there are any updates needed prior to the sunset date’s extension or removal. As a part of that review process, PDSD is currently conducting stakeholder meetings involving neighborhood representatives and business owners. Additionally, staff is planning to hold public meetings related to these regulations early in October – and we will notify you once the locations and times are confirmed. At that point, staff will begin the process of bringing this to the Planning Commission for a study session and public hearing, then eventually to mayor and council for a decision.
Additional information: Arizona’s voters passed Proposition 203, legalizing the use of medical marijuana, in November of 2010. The legislation is known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) and can be found in the Arizona Revised Statutes – A.R.S. 36-284.
The primary licensing of dispensaries and cultivation businesses is done by the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS). They are the State of Arizona agency that is charged with all aspects of regulating and managing the AMMA. The AZDHS has a very good web page (www.azdhs.gov/licensing/medical-marijuana) that provides significant information on all aspects of the AMMA from obtaining a card to operating a dispensary.
Information on the City of Tucson regulations can be found on the Planning and Development Services web page here: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/pdsd/zoning-administration-formsinformation-packets
Planning and Development Services also developed a fact sheet which is available via the link on the page or found here: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/pdsd/forms/Medical_Marijuana_Fact_Sheet.pdf