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Special use for marijuana growing approved

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The Cochise County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special use request for a facility north of Willcox near Fort Grant and Ingram Roads to cultivate medical marijuana after a public hearing Jan. 13 in Bisbee.

The applicant, Amy Lock of Tierra Antigua Realty in Willcox, requested a special use authorization  for the cultivation and infusion of medical marijuana at a facility located on a portion of a 99-acre RU-4, Rural zoned property. 

The Planning Center, based in Tucson, represented Lock during the special use request process with Cochise County, said Brian Underwood, who is with The Planning Center. Lock is making the request for the buyer of the property, he said.

The property is located at 8251 N. Ingram, Road, about a half mile east of Fort Grant Road and about 11 miles north of Interstate 10 from Willcox. 

Underwood said the Planning Commission unanimously approved the special use request following a hearing with two speakers in support of the facility’s request, plus 59 letters of support.

One person, Douglas Miller, a neighbor of the facility, spoke in opposition of the request. 

He said, “My wife and I have taught at Willcox High School and Cochise College for the last 17 years where we have developed a better understanding of teenagers’ motivations, desires and vulnerabilities.  Exposure to marijuana or any illegal drug can escalate into substance abuse with young adults.  Therefore, building greenhouses, with their razor wire fences and numerous bright security lights to illuminate our rural night skies, for the purpose of growing so-called medical marijuana, earmarked for Phoenix, is a slap in the face to the integrity and well-being of our students, our community, our county and our way of life.

“The approval of this special use application would only add to the glut of medical marijuana in Arizona according to current state law. So is this metropolitan-based company (The Planning Center) waiting on current Arizona Laws to be changed?  The young people of the Willcox area do not need more pressure in dealing with the potential of substance abuse.  

“I understand the legal issue brought up by the County’s Deputy Attorney, that the Planning & Zoning Commissioners are to only focus on whether or not the application meets the requirements of their department and not waver to moral issues. But in our current culture of lust and greed for money, maybe the well-being and integrity of the young people of our community and their way of life should take precedence. Have you ever been in a classroom when a student shows up stoned? It places a hardship on the teacher, the school, the student, the family and the community at large.  Preserve our way of life by denying this special use application,” he told the Planning Commission.

Underwood said another cultivation and infusion request was also approved Jan. 13, with a 5-1 vote of the Commission,  just before their own. That facility is located at 10049 Katies Lane, south of Whitewater School Road in Elfrida, and was requested by Canna Consultants Inc., based in Seattle, but consulting in other  states, including Arizona.

Another request from an Elfrida area facility, requested by Sonoran Care LLC in November, was denied by the Commission and an appeal was heard Jan. 5 by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors unanimously upheld the denial of the special use of the facility located  2.8 miles north of Davis Road on Central Highway at the southeast corner of the intersection with Latimer Road. Sonoran Care was proposing a marijuana cultivation and dispensary, which Underwood said may have been part of the reason for the denial.

“There is no point of sale (of marijuana) at either of the two that were approved,” he said.

As long as there is no appeal within 15 days, Underwood said the next step is to start the first greenhouse within 2016.

“For the Planning Center, the next step is to apply for  the commercial permit and a building permit with the County,” he said.

Underwood recently explained the plan for the facility: “The special use request is for 40 acres of the 100-acre farm. The first phase in 2016 would be for one two-acre greenhouse; in 2017, another  two-acre greenhouse and in 2018, two more two-acre greenhouses, making it a total of eight acres. In 2018, depending on the market, an additional eight acres of greenhouses may be added.”

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