Scottsdale City Council votes to roll medical marijuana regulations a little tighter

Scottsdale City Council has moved forward with tightening its regulations on any new medical marijuana dispensary locations looking to open within city limits.

During its Aug. 31 regular meeting elected leaders voted 7-0 to approve a text amendment to the city zoning ordinance No. 455, regarding the Conditional Use Permit criteria for medical marijuana use and medical marijuana caregiver cultivation, including revisions to separation requirements and additional uses.

The council approved to: increase the separation between medical marijuana uses from 1,320 feet to 2,640 feet; increase the required separation from schools and residential uses from 500 feet to 1,500 feet; and to add churches, day care, and public parks as protected uses to be at least 1,500 feet away.

Additionally, the council also included the provision of grandfathering language that would allow the existing medical marijuana facilities to continue to operate.

This ordinance and regulations will not apply should Prop 205, Arizona Marijuana Legalization, pass on the upcoming November ballot, according to city staff, as these provisions only apply to medical facilities.

In May, the local governing body discussed an amendment to the city’s zoning code that defines the criteria for medical marijuana operations within certain zoning districts.

The city allows medical marijuana uses, including dispensaries, in only a few zoning districts — industrial park, commercial office, and special campus.

With the adoption of the city’s existing regulations on medical marijuana uses in 2011, these districts were chosen based on their predisposition to cater toward office and medical office-type uses, according to city documents.

Medical marijuana dispensaries essentially function in the same way a medical office and pharmacy would function. In each of these zoning districts, a conditional use permit is required to demonstrate compliance with specific criteria, including separation and compatibility requirements.

Existing conditional use permit criteria includes:

  • Operations within an enclosed building;
  • Approval of safety plan;
  • Limited hours;
  • No drive through, take-out window, drive in service.

In 2012, the Arizona Department of Health Service based locations of Medical marijuana facilities on established Community Health Analysis Areas, or “CHAAs.” There are seven CHAAs that overlap the Scottsdale city limits, and two CHAAs cover the vast majority of the city.

Five other CHAAs extend into the edges of the city limits. Originally, ADHS limited the number of Medical Marijuana licenses to one per CHAA. However, once a licensed facility in good standing has been in operation for three or more years, state rules allow the owner of the facility to relocate their license within the state based on market demand.

To date, a total of nine dispensaries throughout the state have relocated out of their original designated CHAA and in to another CHAA after having been in operation for three or more years. Three of these dispensaries relocated to Scottsdale, and six relocated to the city of Phoenix.

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