Inside Untamed Herbs medical marijuana dispensary

A view inside the Untamed Herbs medical marijuana dispensary. The Payson council voted to allow Andrew Provencio, to open a recreational dispensary.

After months of discussion and an outpouring of letters and testimony, the Payson Town Council approved updating the town code so a recreational marijuana dispensary could open.

On Aug. 12, the council voted to allow Andrew Provencio and his partners to open a dispensary for recreational purposes. Provencio operated a medical dispensary in Payson for a decade before moving his medical license to the Valley after Proposition 207 passed in 2020. Now, he wants to operate a recreational dispensary.

The council reluctantly agreed to update the town code to allow for a recreation-only dispensary after 120 letters of support were submitted to the town.

Mayor Tom Morrissey said, “This is a conversation I thought I would never be involved with in my life.” He noted he spent a chunk of his career as a federal marshal charged with incarcerating marijuana users and sellers.

“Pandora’s box has been opened. If we allow the dispensary, the problems are still here, but we have the tax revenue to take care of those services,” said Councilor Jolynn Schinstock.

Nine people spoke in favor of a recreational dispensary and two opposed the idea. In addition, more than 120 people sent in letters asking the council to allow for the dispensary. Hardly any issue in Payson Town Council history has provoked so many letters.

Supportive comments ranged from Al Jacobs’ plea to “deal a blow to the illicit market” to Afghanistan vet Don Carols’ story of relief from the pain of his war injuries.

“The army put me on opioids for about 10 years. With OxyContin, I have short-term memory loss,” he said. “I have tried some of the gummy bears, but the VA has not chosen to go down that route — to work with medical marijuana.”

The two comments in opposition included Apostle Roscoe Dabny, who described marijuana as a gateway drug that leads to more dangerous and addictive drugs. Barbara Buntin issued a plea to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.

After public comments, Councilor Scott Nossek said, “We the people have spoken through an initiative. A well-regulated dispensary is the will of the people,” he said.

For the past 10 years, Provencio has run a medical marijuana dispensary and production facility in Payson. He had a license both to sell and grow medical marijuana in town limits. His business has brought millions of dollars of sales tax revenue to the town.

But when Proposition 207 legalized recreational marijuana in 2020, everything changed.

Medical license holders could move their operations to another county — or sell it to someone who would. Provencio moved his medical license to the Valley.

This left Payson with no medical sales outlet for the first time in a decade, to the dismay of the many medical marijuana patients in town.

The new, voter-approved law gave the town the authority to approve multiple recreational and/or medical dispensaries. Towns could also slam the door entirely on the pot business — either recreational or medical.

Provencio and his partners talked the council into granting a new recreational license to go with his existing production facility, since he hopes to retire to Payson. He argued the dispensary has created jobs and tax revenue, but few law enforcement problems.

Councilor Barbara Underwood said “I didn’t vote for marijuana because of my personal beliefs,” but she conceded “I will vote for this.”

Vice Mayor Chris Higgins agreed, “This can be a contentious subject,” but he praised everyone “for the respect shown.”

The council then voted unanimously to allow a recreational dispensary to open within town limits.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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