Unable to construct a medical marijuana zoning ordinance, the Star Valley Town Council Tuesday put a moratorium on issuing dispensary and grow field licenses.
Although the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has yet to award dispensary certificates and no dispensaries can open until they do, the council said a moratorium would prevent a dispensary from moving in
before they draft an ordinance.
The ADHS will publish the final rules for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act on March 28. At that time, the council said it would work on the town’s ordinance.
“Some towns are in their third revision because they don’t have anything to base them on,” said Councilor Vern Leis.
Leis said it was premature to write an ordinance when they do not even know what the ADHS final recommendations will look like. Instead of drafting an ordinance full of holes, he suggested they wait.
The rest of the council agreed. Councilor George Binney was the only one who did not comment on the issue. Binney said he may or may not have a conflict of interest in the matter and to avoid any problems he would withdraw from discussion.
“My feeling is we still don’t have enough data to make a hard and fast ordinance,” said Councilor Paty
Henderson. “I would like to see us fix it so that no one can come in and get a permit since the state has not given final recommendations. Let’s wait and study a little longer and issue no permits.”
“I agree that we are getting ahead of ourselves trying to establish any type of ordinance,” said Councilor Gary Coon. “This is a big decision for our town.”
On Feb. 15, the town council asked Town Attorney/Manager Tim Grier to draft an ordinance that combined Payson’s ordinance with the town’s independent consultant Terry Smith’s proposal.
As Grier constructed an ordinance, he ran into a major obstacle.
Given Star Valley’s small commercial corridor and its proximity to homes, schools and churches, if the town followed Payson’s ordinance there would likely leave no room for one in Star Valley. Payson requires dispensaries to sit 500 feet away from these areas with grow fields in industrial areas. After adopting its ordinance in January, several groups have approached Payson for dispensary permits when they become available.
Star Valley has no area zoned for industrial use.
“We are discovering with the proximity to residential areas because of our small commercial area that a dispensary is likely to be in someone’s back yard,” Grier said. “That is a unique problem for us.”
Grier said he would continue looking at different ordinance options to prevent this from happening.
Leis and Vice Mayor Del Newland said they were against having a dispensary in town, but would follow state rules.
“I am absolutely against marijuana being in our town in any form,” Leis said.
“I am very much against it,” Newland said.
Whether you are for or against it, on April 14 the Medical Marijuana Act goes into effect.
The ADHS will begin accepting applications for dispensary registration certificates May 1.
To get an identification card to use medical marijuana, a patient must have one of the qualifying conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, Hepatitis C, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or a debilitating medical condition or treatment approved by the ADHS.
Under the draft rules, a physician must confirm or diagnose a debilitating medical condition and agree to provide routine care.
If qualifying patients live within a 25-mile radius of a dispensary, they are required to buy from a dispensary. They can obtain 2.5 ounces every two weeks.
If they live more than 25 miles away, they can grown up to 12 marijuana plants in an enclosed area.
For more information, visit www.azdhs.gov.
In other council news, Councilor Barbara Hartwell asked the council to consider donating to a local Japanese family impacted by the tsunami in Japan.
“I feel real strongly about this and I normally don’t get involved with this kind of thing,” she said.
The rest of the council said donating taxpayer money for the cause would be inappropriate.
“I don’t think we should get involved with this,” Coon said. “What are we going to do, take care of everyone? We could be opening up something here.”
Councilmembers said they were happy to donate individually.
Town Clerk Lois Johnson said she would research organizations that are sending aid over if councilors wanted to donate or start a donation drive.