Medical marijuana

With the use of medical marijuana approved by Arizona voters, local municipalities are in the process of crafting ordinances regulating its dispensation.

Many cities are in the discussion stage, planning to pass legislation by the time the marijuana law takes effect in April. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working with municipalities to outline a "model zoning ordinance," and Tempe is one of them.

"We've had a couple of meetings," said Lisa Collins, Tempe community development deputy director. "Obviously, you have to have zoning classifications that are appropriate for this kind of use. We don't have anything established yet, but time is of the essence."

About 120 medical marijuana dispensaries will be placed around the state, located proportionate to population and regulated by the state Department of Health Services.

Gilbert has crafted a fact sheet on medical marijuana zoning, indicating that "dispensary and cultivation sites" will be a new land-use classification. The town could have as many as five dispensaries, with a separation requirement of at least 1,000 feet from a school, church, park or day-care center.

The law states that approved users who live more than 25 miles from a dispensary would be allowed to grow their own marijuana - which Gilbert wants to avoid.

"Zoning that allows for at least one dispensary for (all) approved users would make it easier for the Town to comply with the new proposition, while also complying with our responsibility of prohibiting non-approved uses, and upholding the safety of our entire community," the fact sheet reads.

Gilbert's planning commission is expected to make a recommendation to the Town Council in December, with a vote scheduled for January.

Mesa is taking a similar approach. City officials expect as many as 10 dispensaries, with separation requirements of 500 feet from schools and 1,200 feet from churches or parks.

The City Council is expected to formally adopt the regulations in January.

Chandler has taken a wait-and-see approach. City planning administrator Jeff Kurtz said he expects an ordinance passed before the law takes effect, but he said that Chandler officials are, for now, observing.

"At this point, we're checking out what other cities and jurisdictions are doing, so we can learn about what the issues might be," Kurtz said. "We don't have anything planned at this point, but the city staff has been talking about it. We'll look around and see what direction we want to go."

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