By Philip Haldiman
A new medical marijuana dispensary — Peoria’s fifth — will be built near the northeast corner of 88th Avenue and Thunderbird Road.
The city recently approved the proposal with no opposition, a reflection of the shifted perspective on medical marijuana being sold in local communities.
Today 33 states have legalized medical marijuana and about 62 percent of Americans say recreational marijuana should be legalized, continuing a steady increase over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Since Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act was approved by voters in 2010, Arizona Department of Health Services has reassessed distribution and the number of possible dispensaries statewide, allowing for up to 31 new dispensaries in Arizona — essentially allowing for more in Peoria as well.
Officials say Peoria has a high population of card holders compared with other Arizona cities.
Laura Bianchi, partner and director of the cannabis department at Rose Law Group, said medical marijuana has come a long way since voters approved medical marijuana in this state.
In the earlier years of the industry in Arizona, Ms. Bianchi said long-held beliefs and stereotypes were more prevalent, but that has changed — neighbors who feared medical marijuana businesses would be eyesores and sources of increased crime opposed their presence in zoning meetings and other community venues have now seen the contributions those businesses make.
It speaks volumes that the dispensary in Peoria passed with little fanfare, she said.
“When a family community like Peoria allows a medical marijuana dispensary without public opposition, it is clear that the industry’s presence in the state has shifted public perception of medical marijuana,” she said. “Misinformation and fear of the unknown has given way to knowledge and acceptance of medical marijuana as a source of relief and a force for good in the community.”
This will be the fifth dispensary in Peoria. There are locations at 91st and Olive avenues; 91st Avenue and Thunderbird Road; 91st and Northern avenues; 99th Avenue and Beardsley Road.
Planning Director Chris Jacques said the passage of time has tempered the climate surrounding medical marijuana.
He said the initial three facilities garnered significant opposition, while the last two have garnered little or no interest from the public.
He added that even with a sound ordinance in place to begin with, people were afraid of the unknown, but it doesn’t have the same newness factor or level of uncertainty now that medical marijuana is legal in more than half the states.
“There were concerns with crime or accessibility of the product to minors. Some were simply unhappy with the act and confused that is was enacted when it remains illegal at the federal level. None of these concerns have played out in practice,” he said. “The dispensaries are highly regulated and firmly controlled. The ordinance requires that security be the primary operational consideration and that they behave in a nondescript fashion, for example, only the business name can be on the signage. Are people resigned to the fact that medical marijuana dispensaries are now a part of our landscape? Perhaps — If they are even thinking about them.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services administers and enforces the Medical Marijuana Act,which was approved in 2010 legalizing marijuana for medical use. The department also oversees the issuance of medical cards as well as dispensary and cultivation certificates, while cities oversee the regulation of land use and qualifying sites.
Peoria adopted its ordinance in 2011.
Mr. Jacques said in developing the implementation rules to administer the act, the state had the foresight and time to review and learn from the collective experiences from California and Colorado, and as a result, Arizona has had a very different experience.
In developing the city’s ordinance, Peoria went to great distances to collaborate and learn from others.
“We visited municipalities in California and talked to their staffs. We conferred with our police department, city attorney and elected officials,” he said. “As a cash-based business, we thought it was important that these facilities be in visible commercial locations and outside of close proximity to family-oriented areas (e.g. schools, residential etc.). We also put in place some strict operational requirements to ensure these facilities were safe and did not detract from the community.”
This has continued to play out with the city’s most recent dispensary approval — the nearest residential is an apartment complex 533 feet away, across the 6-lane Thunderbird Road. The location is also surrounded by a commerce park, auto body and repair shops and a car wash.
The dispensary’s security plan has also been approved by the Peoria Police Department.
On March 21, the Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission approved the dispensary request from applicant RJM Real Estate Group to obtain a Conditional Use Permit, which is required for all medical marijuana dispensaries in Peoria.
Lindsay Schube, an attorney representing the applicant, said the new 11,350 square-foot building will be designed to comply with all state regulations. There will be no medical marijuana cultivation or infusion at this facilities. The dispensary will simply administer and sell medicine within the building, she said.
A groundbreaking or open date has not yet been set.
Ms. Schube said it is really exciting to have a new build because everything can be state of the art.
“It is also important to note that in this industry because it is regulated by the Department of Health Services, there is at least one inspection a year, sometimes two, where the department comes out with multiple inspectors. They look at every camera. They backtrack the tape to make sure you are on your best behavior on that day, but also to see what you look like when the inspectors aren’t there. They make sure that every camera is working and all those things,” she said. “So it is a very, very safe operation.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-6743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new medical marijuana medical dispensary is expected to open near the northeast corner of 88th Avenue and Thunderbird Road. As part of the security plan a security guard will be on duty during business hours. Consumption of products on-site, outdoor seating and loitering is prohibited. There will be no drive-thru or delivery services, as well as no alcohol or consumption allowed on-site.
Proposed hours: Daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Patients per day: About 130-195
Dispensary Agents: 6-15 (+security) on-site
Nearest residential: Apartment complex 533 feet away, across the 6-lane Thunderbird Road.
Under the Medical Marijuana Act, cities oversee the regulation of land use and qualifying sites for dispensaries. Peoria adopted its medical marijuana ordinance in 2011, regulating the placement of dispensaries within city boundaries. Here are details on how the city of Peoria regulates dispensaries:
- Requires issuance of Conditional Use Permit (CUP)
- Restricted to specified commercial zones
- Required separation from certain uses
- Requires Security Plan approved by Police Dept.
- Requires Disposal Plan for by-product remnants
- Operational limitations