Will a marijuana dispensary pop up in your neighborhood at the old payday loan store? It depends. If the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act passes, there could be up to 120 dispensaries (and their indoor cultivation facilities) setting up shop across the state. Where they actually go will depend on what kind of local zoning restrictions exist at the time the application comes in to us. The Initiative just says the dispensaries can’t be located within 500 feet of existing schools (a little more than from the backstop to center field), but that local jurisdictions can “enact reasonable zoning restrictions that limit the use of land for… dispensaries”.
Here’s the rub. Since legal marijuana dispensaries (or cultivation facilities) don’t currently exist, cities, towns and counties don’t have any zoning restrictions in place right now. With the turn-key date of the Initiative only 120 days after the election is certified, cities, towns and counties will need to get on the stick right now in order to have something in place before we get our first dispensary application (assuming 203 passes of course). The way I read the Initiative, if jurisdictions don’t have a restriction in place at the time the application is filed, we’d have no choice but to approve the location as long as it’s 500 feet away from existing schools. It could even be right next to a church, playground, or whatever.
I’ve been reaching out to the League of Cities & Towns so that they can help towns get ready, and I’ve talked to some county folks as well. I’m basically trying to make sure they get ready with zoning restrictions now, so cities etc. don’t get mad at me when we approve a marijuana dispensary license next door to playground or something, because they didn’t have a zoning restriction in place when we got the application.