Medical marijuana dispensaries could take root in Ahwatukee Foothills in the coming months with the passage of Proposition 203, but supporters say there will be rules in place to make sure they don't appear in clusters, and that they meet community standards.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, whose district includes Ahwatukee Foothills, said he believes there is a "high likelihood" that a dispensary will open in Ahwatukee.
"The fact that we're so removed from Phoenix makes it likely we will have a dispensary here," DiCiccio said.
Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative, opened the door for about 120 dispensaries in Arizona, one per every 10 pharmacies, according to Joe Yuhas, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, a grassroots group that supported the initiative. Yuhas said the law, which voters narrowly approved in the Nov. 2 election, contains a mechanism that prevents dispensaries from clumping together in one area of town.
"It will make it impossible for dispensaries to spring up everywhere. You will not see dispensaries popping up like pay day loan businesses," he said.
Supporters expect local government to craft community standards, such as zoning and appearance requirements, for the dispensaries, he said.
"In order to protect the interests of the community, cities and towns do need to implement reasonable zoning restrictions," Yuhas said. "We expect and will meet high standards."
DiCiccio said the City Council is expected to consider how to regulate Phoenix dispensaries next month or in January. He said he anticipates the council will limit them to commercially zoned areas, require them to obtain a use permit, mandate stringent security and tasteful architectural designs, and prohibit dispensaries near schools.
Earlier this month, the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee conducted a public meeting to provide input to Phoenix planners on how the dispensaries should be regulated. The issue proved so divisive for the Ahwatukee planning committee, however, that three votes aimed at producing a local recommendation failed on 7-7 ties.
Committee member Max Masel said Ahwatukee has about 80,000 residents, and it makes sense for a dispensary to be available to them.
"I think it's going to be a good thing," Masel said.
DiCiccio said he opposed legalizing medical marijuana during the election, but it's time to move forward.
"Once the voters have made a decision, you have to abide by that law," he said.