BENSON — With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona, the city of Benson held a second work session Tuesday evening to hear how council members feel about marijuana sites in Benson. City Planner Michelle Johnson presented information and answered a plethora of questions about options for the council’s consideration.
The discussion centered on whether or not, as a municipality, council would want to allow a marijuana establishment to operate within Benson City limits, Mayor Joe Konrad explained.
“Simply put, are we, or are not, going to allow those facilities to operate in the City of Benson? Michelle and the rest of the staff are going to come back with draft ordinances based on the information they’re assembling tonight.”
Each council member was asked which of five options they support. Their responses ran all over the board, ranging from supporting dual licenses of medical and recreational marijuana to prohibiting recreational but supporting medical to prohibiting both. The following lists responses:
Council member Barbara Nunn said she supports a “stand alone” medical marijuana dispensary, but does not support a recreational marijuana site.
Council member Lupe Diaz, who also supports a medical marijuana dispensary, said that because of his position outside of council, there is a moral question attached to recreational marijuana. “I support medical marijuana, but I’m having trouble with recreational marijuana,” Diaz said. “I want to stay away from recreational marijuana right now.”
Council member Nick Maldonado also supports medical marijuana, but not recreational. Maldonado expressed concerns about potential detriments to the city if a recreational marijuana site is established, especially for the Benson Police Department because of added enforcement concerns.
Konrad said he favors the dual option of both medical and recreational marijuana.
Vice Mayor Larry Dempster does not support medical or recreational marijuana, so would prohibit both.
Council member Pat Boyle does not support either option.
Toney King favors a dual license, allowing both medical and recreational marijuana.
If the council decides to allow a marijuana site in Benson, there are a number of questions that will need to be explored, Johnson said.
“We do need your comments on this,” she said.
Such considerations as hours of operation, lighting, signage, security issues, loitering and where in the city the facility will be allowed to operate were discussed. When it comes to location, buffers from specified areas such as schools, child care centers, residential areas, churches or parks and community centers will come into play.
Johnson explained that security measures must meet the Arizona Department of Health Services requirements. Waste disposal for marijuana remnants must be securely disposed of, and there must be a specific code compliance for odor and fire safety.
Benson Attorney Gary Cohen reminded the council that the purpose of the work session is to gather information.
“Michelle is listening because she’s trying to figure out which version to bring back to you,” Cohen said. “So, no matter what anybody says about where they are now, there’s going to be a version or different options that will be brought back to council. And you will be able to decide formally what version you want. She’s just trying to figure out if she should bring back one version, two versions, three versions or four versions.”