BENSON — In 2020, Arizona voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The state law allows cities to either prohibit recreational marijuana entirely or allow marijuana establishments, which include retail locations, cultivation and manufacturing sites.
Benson City Council approved dual license facilities for the sale of recreational and medical marijuana, along with a list of allowed locations and restrictions, at the March 22 council meeting.
The state requires dual license holders to go through two separate programs and application processes through the Arizona Department of Health Services for the sale of recreational and medical marijuana.
“For the city of Benson, council approved dual marijuana licenses only, which requires license holders to go through the ADHS process of obtaining recreational and medical licenses,” Benson City Planner Michelle Johnson explained. “According to state law, retail locations are permitted to grow, manufacture and sell marijuana. Cultivation sites can grow, process and manufacture marijuana, but cannot sell to consumers.”
Proposed locations for marijuana facilities in Benson that council members approved at the March 22 meeting include a stretch of vacant land on the east side of Ocotillo Road, extending from Darby Avenue south to the railroad tracks. A second stretch of vacant land on the west side of Ocotillo, which extends from Darby Avenue to the north side of Fourth Street, is another area council approved.
Marijuana facilities on the east and west sides of Ocotillo must be located within a depth of 1,000 feet from the road right-of-way, Johnson said.
Another allowed location extends from Fourth Street at Ocotillo west to Patagonia, where a proposed facility would be fronting Fourth Street.
Council also approved an allowable area along State Route 90 from I-10 south to Whetstone Ranch Road.
Marijuana testing facilities, or laboratories, would be allowed in all of those locations.
Setback requirements for such protected uses as schools, parks, churches and licensed care facilities also were established by council. Depending on the protected use, setbacks range from 300 to 500 feet.
There are no square footage limitations on the size of the marijuana establishments.
“Per state law, marijuana establishments include retail, cultivation and manufacturing facilities,” Johnson said. “Because state law has all of these under one category, the city is required to approve all of these uses. So when a community decides to allow marijuana establishments, it’s ‘all or nothing’ under state law.”
Benson City Council voted to prohibit the delivery of marijuana products, and decided establishments’ times of operation will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The new marijuana ordinance in Benson — Ordinance 609 — was adopted by a 4-3 vote, with councilmembers Barbara Nunn, Patrick Boyle and Toney King voting “no.” The town’s marijuana ordinance goes into effect 30 days from the March 22 meeting.
While there was a lot of interest in marijuana establishments prior to March 9, which was the due date set by ADHS for the first round of licenses, or early applicants, Johnson said she has not heard from the community recently.