- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Phoenix is considering stricter zoning regulations for medical marijuana facilities in advance of a possible vote on legalizing the drug for recreational use.

The changes would mean new medical marijuana sites would have to be farther from places of worship and residential areas, The Arizona Republic reported (https://bit.ly/1MbE9RR ). Dispensaries would also have to follow new requirements about their distance from day-care centers, homeless shelters and youth community centers.

Phoenix Planning and Development Director Alan Stephenson said the zoning proposal is driven in part by a marijuana legalization measure that could go to voters in November. The city’s Planning Commission will consider the zoning changes on Thursday, and they may go to the City Council for a vote.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is still collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot. It would tax marijuana and allow adults 21 and older to buy, grow and possess the drug, with certain restrictions.

Phoenix would create new zoning requirements for recreational uses, but the way the initiative is currently written would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to recreational users. The city already has more than a dozen dispensaries.

“We need to be a little more cautious in how we treat these things,” Stephenson said.

Several City Council members have raised concern about how legal marijuana would affect Phoenix neighborhoods. They say the city should prepare for the initiative to pass.

At a subcommittee meeting earlier this year, Councilman Jim Waring said he was concerned dispensaries would try to secure a spot in Phoenix under the current regulations with the goal of transitioning to recreational facilities. “The quicker we get on it, the better,” Waring said.

The new regulations would more than double the distance between a medical marijuana facility and a place of worship, increasing from 500 to 1,320 feet. The distance from residential areas would go from 250 to 500 feet.

Day-care centers, homeless shelters and youth community centers would join schools and public parks in the 1,320-foot distance requirement.

But some dispensaries say the existing rules already make finding a location challenging. Ryan Hurley, Rose Law Group’s medical-marijuana practice group chair, said the proposed changes would make finding an appropriate site “next to impossible.”


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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