Medical Marijuana

Peter Valenzuela, a lobbyist for Genesis Group Public Affairs, withdraws Nature's Healing Center's application for a medical marijuana dispensary in Ahwatukee a zoning adjustment hearing at Phoenix City Hall on Thursday, March 14, 2013.

An attempt to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard has respectfully been withdrawn for now as the owner searches for a location in Ahwatukee Foothills that will be further away from homes and schools.

During a zoning adjustment hearing on Thursday, Nature’s Healing Center withdrew its application for a zoning variance to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 4909 E. Chandler Blvd. Peter Valenzuela, lobbyist with Genesis Group Public Affairs, represented Nature’s Healing Center at the meeting. He said after a meeting with City Councilman Sal DiCiccio the group decided not to move forward with its request.

“The councilman is adamantly opposed to the location for this site and this application,” Valenzuela said during the hearing. “Taking into consideration the concerns of residents in the area, we are going to respectfully withdraw our application for this site.”

Valenzuela was quick to point out that his client will still open a dispensary in Ahwatukee. State law has mandated that Ahwatukee will have one medical marijuana dispensary. Their goal is to find a location that will be further away from residences and schools.

“Ahwatukee has so many roof tops it’s hard to find a space,” Valenzuela said. “We will most likely have to apply with a variance yet. The applicant doesn’t have a choice where they can go. The state awarded that district so that’s where they have to go. That’s where he’s mandated to go.”

Councilman DiCiccio said he arranged a meeting with the dispensary applicant after receiving some worried calls from business owners and community members. He said while he understands the dispensary has a right to open, and that state law will ultimately trump city law, it was simply a bad location too close to schools. His staff and other city staff will be working with Nature’s Healing Center to identify a new location.

Business owners whose shops are located in the shopping center at 4909 E. Chandler Blvd. say they’re grateful to Nature’s Healing Center for withdrawing their application, but that they’ll be watching to see where they go next.

“They’re zoned in Ahwatukee to have one, so like he said it’s just a matter of where to put it,” said Jazmin Torres, who owns Mountainside Wellness Center with her husband. “At least they’re cooperating and being respectful about it. That, we appreciate.”

Kristin Ito owns Sonoran Hills Dental with her husband. She and Torres have been working together to raise awareness about the dispensary. Ito said this application brought awareness to them that Ahwatukee will eventually have a dispensary.

“We were very concerned about the potential crime it could have caused and about our patients feeling comfortable coming to our office,” Ito said. We had patients state that they wouldn’t come if it was there. I think people are generally uncomfortable with the idea. We were concerned about how it would impact our business.”

John Martinez, owner of John’s Barber Shop in Suite 505, said his main concern was the amount of kids that frequent the shopping center. He said many kids walk from nearby schools to Dunkin’ Donuts or Wendy’s. He has some kids come into the barber shop every Wednesday for a chess club.

“My point was why put an experiment right in that area,” Martinez said. “They have reasonable distances listed. Why take off those restrictions? The restrictions are common sense.”

Martinez said he was grateful to see so many business owners take time off work to stand together at the zoning hearing.

“It’s nice to know you’re not standing alone,” he said. “We live in a community that’s not afraid to stand up for what they believe. They took time off away from their jobs and their families or brought their families here to participate. It’s nice to see that the community stood together.”

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