COOLIDGE — Although a state law may allow patients and caregivers to cultivate marijuana for medical use at home, many municipalities have not been so eager to give the go-ahead.
Coolidge City Council members were on the fence about the idea when presented with a potential zoning code amendment that would enable medical marijuana patients to cultivate the plant at home. The item was tabled for a review at a later date.
Under A.R.S. 36-2804, qualifying individuals can cultivate marijuana if they do not reside within 25 miles of a medical marijuana dispensary.
“Currently because we have an existing dispensary, no one is allowed to grow marijuana in a private home,” Development Services Director Gilbert Lopez told the council during Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
A zoning code amendment proposes to loosen up some of those restrictions by redefining where approved patients or caregivers could grow within the city limits. The amendment was unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in May.
The changes would enable a licensed caregiver to grow medical marijuana for up to five qualifying patients within the home despite the 25-mile restriction.
“For example, a qualified caregiver in a Coolidge subdivision could provide medical marijuana to an approved patient in Kingman that is not within 25 miles of a dispensary,” Lopez said. “The state law is one thing, but Coolidge can be more restrictive than the state law.”
Arizona statute defines a “qualifying” patient or caregiver as one that holds a registry identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
During the meeting, a public hearing was held on the matter, but no public input was received.
If changed, there would be no limit on the amount of private growth sites that could be located within the city, Lopez noted. In addition, the city would have minimal control over or knowledge about the locations the plant would be cultivated, as the licensing, inspections and enforcement would be handled at a state level.
“I don’t think there’s enough backup material,” Mayor Jon Thompson said. “I think there’s a lot of things that are more far reaching than what we see right here and I’m not going to support it as it stands now.”
Other council members also shared the sentiment that they needed more information on the suggested changes to the zoning code before coming to a decision.
“I would like to know how frequently (the state) does the inspections and do they actually come and inspect it or is it just a phone call?” said Councilwoman Tatiana Murrieta.
Among the major concerns that Councilmember Jimmy Walker identified included a lack of restrictions in terms of proximity to public areas such as schools and recreation centers and the potential for the city to see a dramatic uptick in crime as a result of passing the amendment.
“When this thing became a big topic in Colorado I was fortunate to get a training where I talked to the then-District Attorney of Colorado who said their crime rate shot through the roof when they started doing this,” he said.
The ordinance will be re-examined at a future council meeting.