By Chase Kamp, Copper Area News
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a special use permit application for a medical marijuana dispensary on Highway 77 near Dudleyville, citing concerns about traffic, potential for increased crime in the area and a lack of sufficient public comment on the facility.
The application was submitted by Paul Shaub and property land-owner Glenn Wilt Jr., a professor at Arizona State University. The proposed site is on Highway 77 south of Valentine Road within a state-sanctioned community health analysis area (CHAA). Each CHAA is allowed one medical marijuana dispensary.
The Supervisors argued the application did not meet a number of required factors for consideration. Supervisor Pete Rios took greatest issue with the thoroughness of Wilt’s team to notify surrounding residents of a public hearing.
Rios argued the applicants merely posted a notice on the former Palmer Steakhouse building and held the meeting on the same night as nearby Ray High School’s homecoming football game.
“The applicant was lax with public notice,” Rios said, “especially in the first go-round in notifying people.”
David Dow, Wilt’s lawyer, said required notifications were sent to 16 nearby landowners and that attendance was sparse at the public hearing.
Rios asked about the potential for theft in the wooden building that would house the dispensary, as well as the amount of cash the operation would have to handle due to credit card companies being wary of processing medical marijuana transactions.
Dow stood by the application’s submitted security plan, which he said was overseen by a former Apache Junction police lieutenant, and said the marijuana would have been stored in a safe after nightly closing. He also said some credit card companies will process the transactions, albeit at a higher fee, and that the facility would make daily cash deposits.
The facility would not store large amounts of medicinal product, Dow said, unlike other dispensaries that are authorized to grow marijuana on site.
“This isn’t a bunch of wild-eyed radicals,” Dow said of the applicants. “They’re stable, sound businessmen who are experienced and will do a good job with this facility.”
He explained the proposed Dudleyville site was chosen because it met the local criteria for distance from schools, churches and other entities. Pinal County law prohibits dispensaries within 1500 feet of churches, schools or libraries, which triples the distance from such facilities required by the state Department of Health Services.
In 2010, Arizona voters approved Prop 203 which established the medical marijuana program.
Rios said he supported Prop 203. “Cancer victims can benefit from the pain relief of medicinal use,” he said. However, he also contested the application due to traffic accident concerns expressed to him by the Dudleyville Fire Department.
Several Supervisors noted they had received many notes of opposition from constituents, and that they had received next to no letters of support for the proposal.
“I’m concerned about the message that it sends to young people,” Rios said. “If it isn’t okay to smoke marijuana, then why is it okay to sell it by the [nearby] Minute Mart [gas station]?”
Chairman Steve Miller argued that moral objections to marijuana were not sufficient to deny the application, saying the applicants agreed to meet the 18 stipulations made by the county planning and zoning commission.
However, he too expressed concern about the notification to the public. “They posted it legally, but did they really reach out in a way most effective?” he said.
After the down vote, Dow said he and Wilt were yet to decide if they will legally challenge the Board’s decision.