Marijuana dispensary restrictions tabled pending more discussion

"The Glendale City Council voted unanimously June 25 to table an ordinance that would place restrictions on where marijuana dispensaries can operate."

The Glendale City Council voted unanimously June 25 to table an ordinance that would place restrictions on where marijuana dispensaries can operate.

Councilmembers were concerned with a lack of specificity regarding definitions and boundaries.

Through a zoning code text amendment, the city sought to expand the types of institutions from which marijuana dispensaries would be separated. 

Under the amendment, dispensaries would be required to be distanced no less than 1,320 feet (a quarter mile) from educational institutions where minors may congregate.

This would include child care centers, libraries, public parks, residential substance abuse treatment facilities and sober living homes, among other institutions.

The ordinance would not affect existing dispensaries.

“The purpose of this zoning code text amendment is to expand the definition of sensitive users that we think, and believe as a community, should be separated from medical marijuana dispensaries,” said David Williams, planning administrator.

In addition, Williams said the ordinance seeks to expand the definition of schools to “other specialty schools like fine arts schools or dance studios where minors congregate to obtain education experience.”

But Cholla District Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff raised concerns regarding the definition of an educational institution.

She said it could be expanded to many other businesses that are not educational in nature.

“I have a hard time, in my opinion, thinking of a karate studio or a dance studio or a gym that offers daycare as a school,” Tolmachoff said.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries are a legal business in AZ, and we want to be business friendly.”

Mayor Jerry Weiers shared Tolmachoff’s concern for a vague explanation as to what is considered a “school.”

“I’m concerned that we are overreaching … I believe very strongly that, more than likely, the majority of the people in the state of Arizona are going to approve recreational marijuana,” said Weiers, who clarified he is not taking a stance on the issue.

“If that happens, do we want to limit the city of Glendale receiving those taxes from marijuana if it’s state-legally bought, or do we want to have so many restrictions so that we are sending it to other cities?”

But Vice Mayor Joyce Clark, who represents the Yucca District, disagreed with Weiers, and called it a question of principle rather than economics.

“I do not approve of marijuana, medicinal or recreational, and I hope it does not pass as a recreational drug in our state,” she said.

“The state requires us to permit the sale of marijuana. The state does not require us to promote the use of marijuana, and that’s the distinction.

“I’m not here to make it easier for people to acquire marijuana. I appreciate what the mayor is saying about tax revenue, but sometimes principle must stand above the almighty dollar, and for me this is one of those situations.”

Councilmembers ultimately voted unanimously to table the ordinance.

The details will be reworked in future workshops, after which it will return to council.