DOUGLAS — Douglas’ City Planner Peter Gardner informed the Douglas City Council at a special work study session Jan. 6 at City Hall that it’s quite possible Douglas could have a marijuana facility inside its city limits within the next six months.
Gardner outlined some options the council needs to consider in regards to Proposition 207.
Prop. 207 will allow the sale of recreational marijuana inside city limits. He stated Douglas has received three letters of interest from individuals wanting to open a recreational marijuana dispensary.
Gardner noted what changes would need to be made to the city zoning regulations in order for that to happen. The proposed changes are coming back before the city council Jan. 13.
In his presentation to the council, the city planner outlined some options the council needs to consider. He stated the state permits one medical dispensary within each Community Health Analysis Area drawn by the Department of Health based on population. Gardner noted there are six CHAAs in Cochise County and two currently have active dispensaries. The Douglas CHAA does not have a dispensary. One of the interested parties has a proposed site located at 50 W. Ninth St.
“Under Prop 207 we have to accommodate medical marijuana facilities under the city zoning ordinance,” Gardner said. “We’re looking to treat them the same as recreational use facilities but add an extra layer of protection for residential neighborhoods.”
Gardner informed the council adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and could grow up to six plants for each adult, though the plants would have to be screened from the public view and would have to be secure. There would be no permitted use of smoking marijuana in public. The Arizona Department of Health will enforce rules and control the licensing of marijuana establishments, like it does with medical marijuana establishments. ADH will accept license applications Jan. 19-March 9. The facilities would have to adhere to distance limitations from schools and churches.
Gardner noted that at a Dec. 16 meeting Douglas’ Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend the mayor and council treat medical and recreational facilities the same, keeping the existing setbacks and zoning districts but amending all such uses to conditional uses.
Douglas Police Chief Kraig Fullen says he sees his department facing a number of challenges going forward.
“We’ll do the best that we can to overcome those challenges and position the city to deal with them as they come up,” he said. “I think we’re on the right track by getting ahead of it with the language we have now with the limitations that we have based on the language in the proposition. I think there is a possibility of some of that language getting challenged either before it officially gets put into policy by the Department of Health Services or after the fact when municipalities react to the requirements.
“The way Proposition 207 allows for private individuals to possess up to six plants per adult, capped at a total of 12 plants for homes with two or more persons over 21, the law limits them in that it can only be used for personal use but it can be gifted to anyone else as long as there is no exchange of money or payment.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an underground black market being operated which has been the case in other states where recreational marijuana has been legalized. I see this being an additional complexity in how we investigate some of these complaints as well as dealing with the aftermath from either use or persons struggling with substance abuse disorder as well as impaired drivers being involved in traffic accidents.”
Gardner says what he plans on bringing before the city council will be to expand the marijuana regulations to include recreational and dual use facilities and to require all of them to get approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We’re not changing any of the setback requirements,” he said. “It’s the addition the Planning Commission will review each one on an individual basis regardless of location and decide if that’s an appropriate location. It’s possible that within the next six months Douglas will have a marijuana facility.”