Pubdate: Wed, 01 Dec 2010
Source: Eastern Arizona Courier (AZ)
Copyright: 2010 Eastern Arizona Courier
Author: Jon Johnson


In accordance with the passage of Proposition 203, Arizonans will be
able to grow and distribute cannabis for medical purposes. Safford,
like many other cities and towns throughout Arizona, is now in the
process of creating zoning regulations to address how and where
medical marijuana may be grown and dispensed.

City Manager David Kincaid said the city cannot refuse to allow a grow
operation or dispensary if it is approved by the Arizona Department of
Health Services.

"But what we can do is we can limit the areas that they can operate in
and have specific regulations within which how they can operate within
our limits," he said.

Proposition 203 passed by just 4,341 votes out of more than 1.67
million cast. It will allow patients with diseases, including cancer,
HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and any other "chronic or debilitating" disease
that meets its guidelines, to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis
from an approved dispensary every two weeks. Patients who live more
than 25 miles from a dispensary will be allowed to grow up to 12
plants in an enclosed and locked area. Retired Harvard Medical School
professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon has called marijuana a miracle drug and
said the human body produces its own version of cannabinoids
(substances that constitute cannabis such as tetrahydrocannabinol,
which is the primary psychoactive in pot) for one or more useful
purposes. Cannabinoid receptor sites occur not only in the lower brain
but also in the cerebral cortex, where higher thinking takes place,
and in the hippocampus, which is the locus of memory, according to Dr.
Grinspoon. He recentl! y said in an interview on "20/20" that
society's attitudes toward the drug will change as more people
familiarize themselves with its benefits.

"We have been brainwashed about this substance," he said. "There will
come a time when people recognize this as the wonder drug of our times."

Safford Police Chief John Griffin, along with all of Arizona's
sheriffs and county prosecutors, the governor, the state attorney
general and other politicians, opposed the passage of Proposition 203.
Griffin believes the law will stifle law enforcement, especially when
attempting to prosecute someone for DUI-drug for being under the
influence of marijuana.

Police will have to prove impairment in medical marijuana patients as
is required with a person who is driving impaired on other
prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, and the simple presence of
marijuana metabolites in a patient's system will no longer guarantee a
conviction. Cannabis is fat soluble and can stay in a user's body from
30 to 60 days, depending on the fat content of the user and usage of
the drug.

The proposition was certified with other election results Monday.
According to the initiative, the Arizona Department of Health Services
is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the law and has 120
days from its certification to implement it. A timeline from the ADHS
states it will publish the official draft rules for public comment
Jan. 31, 2011, and the final rules March 28, 2011. After the final
rules are posted, ADHS will begin to accept applications for registry
identification cards and for dispensary certificates.

Kincaid said Safford's draft regulation is influenced by policies
already in place in Marana and Flagstaff and a recommended policy by
the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.

According to Marana's policy, dispensaries may not be located within
1,000 feet of a school, child care center, library, park, church or
businesses "devoted to family recreation or entertainment." It also
restricts the zones where dispensaries may operate and limits the
number of dispensaries in the town to two.

Kincaid said Safford's initial draft policy would allow dispensaries
to operate in only C-2 zones, which are highway commercial zones
located along the frontage of highways 70 and 191. The draft policy
limits commercial growing to supply dispensaries to industrial zones
in enclosed environments.

"So that we won't have fields of marijuana near residential housing,"
Kincaid said.

He also recommended if a dispensary applicant complies with all laws,
rules and regulations, it would be allowed without the location having
to be approved by the City Council.

Proposition 203 limits the number of dispensaries in the state to one
for every 10 pharmacies, which means about 124 dispensaries will be
able to operate. It also guarantees that a dispensary application will
be saved for each county. That means there will be the ability to have
at least one dispensary in Graham and Greenlee counties.

Kincaid reported that the towns of Pima and Thatcher and Graham County
are also drafting dispensary and commercial growing

Pima Town Manager Gerald Schmidt told the Courier the Pima Town
Council will review its draft regulations for possible approval at its
next meeting Dec. 7.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt