Pubdate: Mon, 06 Aug 2012
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2012 The Arizona Republic
Author: Gary Nelson


Mesa in line for 4; one district has no eligible sites

Mesa will find out this week who will be authorized to operate the
four medical-marijuana dispensaries likely to set up shop in the city.

The Arizona Department of Health Services will conduct a lottery on
Tuesday to choose from the scores of applicants vying for the business
of people legally authorized to use marijuana.

Mesa has five of Arizona's 126 so-called community health analysis
areas, each of which is authorized to have one dispensary.

Gordon Sheffield, Mesa's zoning administrator, said Mesa probably will
wind up with only four dispensaries, however.

That's because the central Mesa district has no areas that are
eligible under the city's zoning law.

The City Council immediately began wrestling with where to allow
dispensaries after Arizona voters in 2010 gave razor-thin approval to
Proposition 203, which allows the sale of medical-grade marijuana to
people who have a doctor's permission to use it for certain conditions.

The council at first considered allowing dispensaries in both retail
and industrial areas, but then narrowed that out of concern over the
image Mesa might project if someone were selling pot, for example,
along the light-rail corridor.

Mayor Scott Smith said in early 2011 that there are plenty of
attractive, industrially zoned areas where patients wouldn't have
trouble finding a dispensary.

The medical-marijuana law survived a court battle launched when Gov.
Jan Brewer filed a lawsuit seeking clarification of its provisions.

A county judge dismissed the suit in January and Brewer decided not to

That does not mean, however, that there is clear sailing.

Arizona, the 16 other states with medical-marijuana laws and the
District of Columbia are bucking federal law that prohibits the substance.

The U.S. Department of Justice in March reiterated a warning that
state employees are subject to federal prosecution for implementing
Prop. 203.

Other states have seen federal raids on marijuana facilities that were
ostensibly legal under state law.

Mesa police officials also said, when the council was debating the
issue, that marijuana shops in other states have attracted criminals
preying on both the patients and the shops themselves.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which is administering the
program, has volumes of information on its website about the
legalities and procedures of implementing the law.

The department also lists, by district, the numbers of dispensary
applications, qualified patients and caregivers.

If the number of caregivers is fewer than 20, an exact number isn't
given. That's the case in all five of Mesa's districts.

By district, Mesa's numbers look like this:

East: 628 patients, nine dispensary applications.

Central: 391 patients, one dispensary application.

West: 586 patients, 11 dispensary applications.

North: 329 patients, nine dispensary applications.

South: 381 patients, six dispensary applications.

At this point, qualified patients and caregivers are the only ones who
can legally cultivate marijuana. Each patient may cultivate up to 12
plants. Each caregiver may have up to five patients, so could
potentially cultivate 60 plants. When the dispensaries are opened,
cultivation centers also will be allowed legally.

Once a dispensary opens within 25 miles of a patient's home, the
patient is no longer allowed to grow or obtain product from a caregiver.

Statewide, nearly 30,000 patients have qualified to take marijuana for
ailments, including cancer and glaucoma.
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