Pubdate: Wed, 06 Oct 2010
Source: Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Arizona Daily Star
Author: Stephanie Innes
Bookmark: (Proposition 203)


If medical marijuana dispensaries open in Pima County, they won't be
allowed to locate in neighborhoods.

In anticipation state voters will decriminalize marijuana for medical
use Nov. 2, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved code changes
about how medical marijuana will be grown and sold. The local
regulations go above and beyond language in the statewide ballot measure.

While Proposition 203 - the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act - regulates
who would be able to use marijuana, it does not restrict the location
of marijuana dispensaries, aside from being at least 500 feet from

The board voted marijuana sales should be restricted to CB2 zoning,
which is for larger commercial operations and bars.

Supervisors also required dispensaries have someone on staff licensed
to dispense drugs, which is not required by the initiative.

And the board ruled sales must be from a fixed location, shutting down
a point raised in the debate over the initiative, that "canibus
caravans" would be cruising neighborhoods.

"One of the most important parts of this is to make sure we don't have
'grow houses' in residential neighborhoods; that would be very
problematic," chief deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Craig Cramer
said. "The board acted in a proactive manner. They are providing very
significant protection of children."

In addition to restricting medical marijuana dispensaries to areas
designated commercial, the county on Tuesday decided dispensaries must
be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, drug treatment faculties,
libraries and churches.

The supervisors also rewrote the county health code to specify that
the marijuana dispensaries must hire someone who is licensed to
dispense drugs under the Arizona Controlled Substances Act.

"That makes sense. We are pushing for a clinical environment and
having someone licensed on staff will reinforce that this is about
medicine," said Andrew Myers of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy
Project, which led the citizen initiative. "We allowed for flexibility
for municipalities."

Dispensaries may have an off-site location for cultivation of the
marijuana, but in Pima County that would need to be in a commercial
area, too. The board decided not to allow off-site cultivation in
industrial areas. Craig Cramer said other cities have had problems
with such sites in industrial areas being used as fronts for illegal
drug operations. Myers disagrees, however - he says industrial areas
are more easy to secure.

The supervisors decided to revisit the code changes six months after
Prop. 203 takes effect, to determine whether there are unintended

While county officials said it's important to be ready for 203's
passage, Myers said the board's actions Tuesday were unnecessarily
fast and precluded discussion on issues such as cultivation in
industrial areas.

"I wish they would wait until after the election and have an informed
discussion," he said. "Right now I see this being used as a political
opportunity. We have plenty of time."

To obtain medical marijuana, people over the age of 18 with one of the
qualifying conditions would need a written "certification" - instead
of a prescription - from a doctor, naturopath or homeopath. The
certification would qualify them for a card from the Arizona
Department of Health Services, allowing them to legally buy 2.5 ounces
of marijuana every 14 days.

State health officials would regulate the marijuana and expect to
begin issuing cards in March or April. About 120 nonprofit
dispensaries would be allowed in Arizona if 203 passes. The measure
lists specific medical conditions including cancer, Crohn's disease
and chronic pain that would allow a patient to qualify.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake