Proposed change to Tucson marijuana ordinance tackles smell, cultivation location

Battle over marijuana dispensaries

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance was up for review and renewal at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

The board voted to recommend to the city council that they remove the sunset date on the ordinance, allowing the city council to make future changes as they see fit.

Those recommendations also involve two key factors in the ordinance, including keeping medical marijuana dispensaries at least 1,000 feet away from a public park and odor mitigation, or regulating the smell.

"If you're going to have a facility this size, and you want it to smell, then put it out by the dump. Put it out underneath where the planes fly with fuel. It shouldn't be near the houses," said one man, who lives in the Rita Ranch area, during the public hearing Tuesday night.

A new cultivation site is being constructed just outside his neighborhood, along South Rita Road, by Brian Warde and his partners.

"Our intention is never to come in and have a negative impact. We really selected this location and this site because we really think it fit for where people want to live, and we want to be part of that," Warde said.

Warde is the CEO of The Prime Leaf medical marijuana dispensary, with one location near Speedway Boulevard and Columbus Boulevard. By his estimate, there are about 25,000 medical marijuana patients in Pima County.

In order to meet their demand, he and his partners are growing their grow operation, starting with the first phase, a 90,000-square foot indoor and outdoor cultivation site that they expect to be up and running by April 2019, without any delays.

He places a large importance on keeping his business in the city of Tucson.

"It's home. It's construction jobs, contracting, and more convenient for us," Warde explained.

But at Tuesday night's meeting, there were two vocal opponents in neighbors to the new site who feel they weren't notified properly.

"They want to understand what it's going to look like and what those impacts are, and the true statistics of how is that going to affect our neighborhood," Warde said. "They always want to make sure that we are working to scale and that we're not over-expanding and creating community issues or ancillary issues to other businesses - at the same time, meeting the demand of patients in the community."

In the current ordinance, there is no mention of odor mitigation. But it is a standard practice of the marijuana industry and is already a condition needed for medical marijuana facilities to be approved in Tucson, according to the planning commission board.

City leaders typically review the ordinance every two years, ever since Arizona voters legalized medical marijuana in 2010.

The sunset date of the ordinance is currently January 31, 2019, although the planning commission voted to remove that. The city council will make the ultimate decision on the recommendation.

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