Now that voters have passed Proposition 207, legalizing recreational marijuana, some local cities and town councils are considering potential commercial zoning options and others are waiting for more information.
The Town of Pima has already decided to prevent recreational marijuana businesses to set up within the city limits, voting unanimously to prevent it in early December. The Town of Thatcher did have a resolution potentially designating a new zoning area for marijuana businesses brought to the council in December. However, Thatcher Town Manager Heath Brown said the potential resolution was put on hold for further discussion. Brown said he is waiting for more input from the council on what they want.
The Thatcher resolution, if passed, would have amended a commercial zone on Highway 70 from 20th to 1st Avenue and allowed marijuana businesses to operate in those areas of the city. Brown said he will reintroduce the resolution to the council in the January or February.
Thatcher has been approached by five or six entities who are interested in knowing what the local government regulations are regarding marijuana, Brown said. However, the big question for Brown is what the state of Arizona will do.
“Is the state going to allow more than one dispensary in the Gila Valley? We don’t know,” he said.
People are going to buy recreational marijuana somewhere, Brown said. Ultimately, it will be up to the council if they can eventually purchase it in Thatcher.
Ashley Smith, newly-elected vice mayor of Thatcher, said she doesn’t support the idea of having marijuana businesses within the city limits.
“The lure of the tax revenue isn’t enough to have it in our town,” Smith said. “I would prefer we didn’t have one in Thatcher.”
Because of the layout of the town and regulations, Smith said a medical marijuana dispensary couldn’t be located in it when the possibility previously arose. The proximity of schools, residential areas, and churches all precluded a dispensary, she said.
Also, she personally doesn’t want the town to promote the drug in any way.
“I feel like we are a family-friendly community, and I would like to keep it that way,” she said.
Unlike Thatcher or Pima, the City of Safford hasn’t delved into the topic of what action to take regarding potential rezoning and marijuana businesses. John Cassella, Safford city manager, said he and the council are still learning more about the recreational marijuana prop and what the state will do with it.
“Something like this would go to a public hearing,” Cassella said. “It’s kind of a touchy subject with folks. Ultimately the council will have to get feedback.”
Cassella is waiting for more information to surface from the state before he forms an opinion on if they should be located in Safford.
Jason Kouts, Safford Mayor, said he can’t speak for the rest of the council about recreational marijuana business. However, he did say he did not want to get in the way of a legal business working within the city if it’s located in proper zoning. Also, he said he doesn’t know if the state will allow more than one marijuana business within the area.
“I stand for businesses in general,” Kouts said.
Kouts said he feels like recreational marijuana is now similar to alcohol and tobacco in the sense it is legal and businesses can make a profit from it. However, proper utilization of zoning is a must.
He said he doesn’t know enough about the taxes of the businesses to know if the marijuana businesses would be profitable to the town.
Mike Andazola, a Safford council member, said he currently doesn’t have an opinion on the issue.
“I don’t know much about it and I need to learn more,” Andazola said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the new laws. I don’t want to make a commitment either way. But I do want to learn more.”
Duncan Mayor Ann Thurman said she is waiting to gather more information on the business as a whole before she makes any type of personal decision.
Also, she is waiting for more information from the Arizona Department of Health Services to see if more dispensaries will be allowed within Duncan.
“I don’t have an answer. There is a lot of talk about revenue, and it will be brought before the council to discuss and go from there,” Thurman said. “We haven’t made any decisions as a council yet.”
The Town of Clifton, like Thatcher and Pima, is moving forward with a potential ordinance which was examined by the council in a work session meeting, said Rudy Perez, Clifton town manager.
“The consensus in the work session, although remember nothing was voted on, was that the facilities which will be allowed to open will only be both recreational and medical marijuana,” Perez said. “But the final decision hasn’t been made yet.”
The process for this ordinance will be lengthy if the council agrees to move on it, Perez said. Initially, it will have to be approved by the Clifton Planning and Zoning Cmmission. This commission will designate where the facilities can be constructed. Depending on the commission’s wishes, the ordinance will have its first official reading in front of the council. Then, the ordinance will have a second reading two weeks later.
“I project it will generate revenue for the town of Clifton. If it’s done right, through the planning and zoning process, which regulates these types of businesses,” Perez said.
Luis Montoya, mayor of Clifton, said he isn’t anticipate a large number of recreational marijuana businesses coming to Clifton simply because of the size of the community.
Also, he’s doubtful such a business would generate much tax revenue for the town, since the medical marijuana dispensary doesn’t.
“I am moving toward the minimalist approach, allowing the selling through the licensed (medical) dispensary but not allowing the opening of just anybody with a recreational license,” Montoya said.