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Pima County could relax marijuana dispensary rules

Posted at 10:21 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 01:21:02-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima County could make it easier to open marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county.

Arizona voters legalized recreational marijuana use in the fall of 2020, but Pima County’s current dispensary zoning code dates back to 2010—when medical marijuana became legal.

“We were very careful, cautious,” Pima County Chief Zoning Inspector Tom Drzazgowski said of the current ordinance regarding dispensaries under county jurisdiction.

Last week, the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission unveiled potential updates to the code.

“One of the things we learned throughout the last 12 years is the state highly regulates [dispensaries],” Drzazgowski said. “And a lot of the perceived impacts that maybe were though of in 2010 have not really come to fruition, in our experience.”

“I think we’ve used the last year and a half to kind of analyze how things are functioning across the state. And now the county’s, I think, ready to make changes to the code and start the vigorous public process,” he added. “I think we’re taking the approach of treating each license the same and just providing the criteria and the standards.”

No dispensaries are currently operating in unincorporated Pima County.

The proposed changes would allow for recreational-only dispensaries, without a medical requirement.

It would also shorten the minimum setbacks between dispensaries and parks, schools and libraries to 500 feet. It would also allow licensed dispensaries to establish off-site cannabis cultivation in the county’s rural areas.

“Our main goal is to change development standards,” Drzazgowski said. “And to look at some of the other jurisdictions that have successfully operated with dispensaries over the years.”

Several dispensaries have opened in the city of Tucson and in other Arizona cities, but many steps remain before Pima County can make any changes to its zoning language.

The first step is hearing from the public—before and during the Commission’s next meeting on May 25th, where a proposal of changes will be presented.

If that proposal is approved, it would then go to the Board of Supervisors for a vote, likely sometime this summer.

“What we wanna do is provide the opportunity for these dispensaries, to find locations—in the appropriate location—to exist and to function in the community,” Drzazgowski said.

For a full breakdown of the proposed changes, please visit Pima County's website.