Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Tucson Weekly (AZ)
Copyright: 2014 Tucson Weekly
Author: J. M. Smith


Tucson's Economy Is Suffering Because the City Has Capped Commercial 
Marijuana Farms

In 2003, a factory owned by doorknob manufacturer Weiser Lock closed 
in Tucson. The company, which employed more than 1,000 people here in 
its 1990s heyday, was sending its last 150 factory jobs to 
California, because it just wasn't viable to keep them here anymore. 
The Weiser Lock departure story made headlines in local news.

In 2011, Bombardier, an aircraft services company that outfits luxury 
jets, among other things, expanded in Marana. The Arizona Daily Star 
did a story about it, because people were happy that 100 Southern 
Arizonans were getting jobs. In 2004, a Cross Country call center 
here added 100 jobs, and again the jobs sparked news reports. In 
2012, Maumee Assembly and Stamping announced it would expand, and 
again "100 jobs" was a headline.

In 2013, Bloom Dispensaries, an Arizona-based cannabis chain, wanted 
to build an indoor commercial marijuana farm in Tucson, one that 
could serve dispensaries and patients all over the state, bringing 
money here from other communities and providing more than 150 jobs.


The reason you didn't hear the news about these jobs is that they 
didn't materialize, couldn't materialize, because Tucson has an 
ordinance that hobbles the legitimate cannabis industry. Dispensaries 
can't grow more than 3,000 square feet of cannabis here, which is 
about 1/80th of what Bloom wants to build. And not only is Tucson not 
getting the jobs, Phoenix is getting some of them. Our larger, less 
attractive and apparently wiser neighbor to the north, has no limit. 
This is starting to cost us, as dispensaries ramp up to full 
commercial production of meds.

Under state medical marijuana rules, each dispensary is allowed to 
have one associated commercial cultivation site. Where they put it is 
up to them, and since Phoenix allows huge grows, Bloom is growing in 
a warehouse at the edge of that city, not ours.

I sent an email to every member of Tucson's city council, asking them 
what they think about all this. Only two responded. Karin Uhlich from 
Ward 3 wants the city to be consistent and to encourage economic development.

"I am open to reviewing our existing ordinance to see how this is 
unfolding in Tucson and across (Arizona and the U.S.), and 
considering adjustments based on what we learn from that," she said 
in an email.

Paul Cunningham of Ward 2 is all for expanding this limit. He wants 
Tucson, not Phoenix, to get the jobs and associated benefits. But 
there would have to be public hearings and study sessions and lots of 
thinking and planning in the halls of government.

"We can't just snap our fingers and change the law," Cunningham said. 
Instead, he urged Bloom to apply for a variance to the zoning laws, 
which could happen faster than a change in the ordinance. The first 
step is a presentation to the Council about the cultivation limit, he said.

Cunningham is concerned about the potential bleeding of cash to other 
parts of the state. He wants Tucson to get its meds from local 
growers and be ready when recreational cannabis comes to Arizona.

"I'd like to see some of these facilities operational, so that when 
the recreational transition happens, we can be ready," he said. 
Cunningham expects that in the next three years.

He thinks cannabis gets short shrift in economic development 
discussions, because many authorities still have a bad taste in their 
mouths from the olden days, when marijuana was bad. Now we are 
starting to see it isn't so bad, Cunningham said, but a lot of folks 
in government just haven't come around yet.

Ultimately, Tucson's cultivation limit doesn't just hinder the 
burgeoning cannabis industry, it hurts all of us.

When hundreds of people get jobs, they shop. They buy clothes and gas 
and food and drinks. They pay taxes, so your kids can have computers 
at school and so we can have cops on the street. They contribute to 
the economy, and these potential Bloom employees would contribute 
more than a lot of folks, because they would make more money that 
those poor call center folks who spend their days sending tow trucks 
to rescue old ladies stranded on America's roadsides. So their jobs 
help all of us.

Isn't that what we want?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom