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Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries: County's Planning Commission agrees to loosen regulations

Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries: County's Planning Commission agrees to loosen regulations
Posted at 6:28 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 21:28:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The clock is ticking for recreational marijuana dispensaries to open their doors in Arizona. The state says these dispensaries have until October next year to get started, but Tucson and Pima County are still trying to decide where they can be located.

“There were a few places where they could go but I would have to say very few locations as to where they could go,” said Pima County’s Planning Official Chris Poirier.

Poirier is working to make unincorporated areas more attractive for the marijuana industry.

“In Pima County, we have no dispensaries today, the city has a pretty robust marijuana related industry,” Poirier said.

At Poirier’s proposal, the County’s Planning Commission agreed to relax regulations around where recreational dispensaries can be located, mirroring Tucson’s rules. The commission wants to allow dispensaries in industrial zones and also commercial areas like shopping centers, malls, or downtown. They also shortened required distances between new dispensaries and schools, libraries and parks.

“The industry has done a really good job of making sure that criminal element isn't happening around the land uses like we thought they could when we first introduced the rules back in 2010," Poirier said. "So essentially we’re taking a fresh look at our rules.”

The commission’s proposed change in regulations will go before the Board of Supervisors in July. But there’s one caveat that could push away potential business: they want to require a public hearing process for all dispensaries before they can build. This process would last four months. Tucson has a similar public hearing requirement, and the city’s process takes six months.

“We have had push back from some dispensaries saying we will run out of time if you make us go through this process," said Steve Kozachik with Ward 6, Tucson City Council. "I get that, that’s why they need to get their applications in quickly.”

The city council argues this process could prevent corporations from taking over the recreational industry in Southern Arizona.

“We don’t have an ability other than forcing someone through three rigorous public processes to step up to the plate, identify who they are, identify their credentials and say this is why we’re applying for this,” Kozachik said.