Safford medical marijuana dispensary eyeing August opening
David Bell Photo/Eastern Arizona CourierWork continues rehabbing the old Mt. Graham Discount Plumbing Supply building, at U.S. Highway 70 at 14th Avenue, into a new medical marijuana dispensary. Ultra Health Safford hopes to complete the state inspection by Aug. 6, with opening to prescribed cardholders shortly thereafter
By David Bell firstname.lastname@example.org
SAFFORD — The license holders for a medical marijuana dispensary in Graham County hope to have the facility ready for state inspection within the next 10 days and open for business shortly thereafter.
Duke Rodriguez, one of the principals in Ultra Health Safford, said the target date of Aug. 6 for inspection should be attainable.
“We’ve already begun demolition, and it was primarily cosmetic,” Rodriguez said.
The new dispensary will utilize the old Mt. Graham Discount Plumbing Supply building on U.S. Highway 70 at South 14th Avenue, using the 1,500-square-foot display area in the front of the building.
The City of Safford approved the zoning for medical marijuana on Feb. 28, 2011, designating the C-2 zone for dispensaries and the industrial zone for enclosed cultivation.
The ordinance also outlines a number of regulations and restrictions on location based on proximity to existing facilities, such as being at least 1,000 feet from “a residential substance abuse diagnostic and treatment facility or other residential drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility”; 500 feet from “a public, private, parochial, charter, dramatic, dancing, music, learning center, or other similar school or educational facility that caters to children”; and 250 feet from residentially zoned property, childcare centers, public libraries or public parks, churches, another dispensary and any “facility devoted to family recreation or entertainment.”
The city code also limits the hours of operation to no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m.
“It left certain areas within the city where they could go,” said city planner Dustin Welker. “We did not go the conditional use permit route; our attorney advised against that. So it’s zoning by right.”
Rodriguez said there has been little opposition to the facility thus far, and he expects the community to find the dispensary a good neighbor once the public understands the safeguards state regulations require.
“Only individuals that hold a state approved prescription card can enter the secure area. We will install a high number of cameras for 24-hour surveillance, and we must capture an image of every transaction,” Rodriguez said. “Clients will not be allowed to loiter or consume on the property, there will be no drug paraphernalia — such as pipes or ‘bongs’ — the only thing that will be dispensed is the medical marijuana, edibles or lotions.
“In the three markets I have experience with, I have yet to face significant opposition,” he continued. “The issue is: Will be it be secure, will it invite unwanted individuals into the neighborhood, and will there be increased criminal activity? I think once people see how secure this facility is, they will see it is no different than a highly secured pharmacy.”
Rodriguez and his partners hold the licenses for dispensaries in Graham and Greenlee counties and one for Gilbert. He said he’s also hoping to have the Greenlee dispensary — Ultra Health Clifton, located on Chase Creek — to be ready for state inspection by Aug. 6.
Welker said the city has been inspecting throughout the process for adherence to building code and will likely inspect for adherence to the code for dispensaries at the same time as the state.
“We want the public to understand; the city has gone through the public process, even though it’s been a while,” Welker said. “It (Ultra Health Safford) has all been kosher, following the rules of the state and the city.”
The city code for medical marijuana dispensaries is 17.12.240 and may be found on the city’s Web site,www.cityofsafford.us.
Medical marijuana dispensary limits
A licensed dispensary in the State of Arizona may dispense medical marijuana only:
• After verifying the patient is the holder of a valid identification card.
• After verifying that the current purchase will not cause the patient to exceed the purchase limit of no more than 2.5 ounces in any 14-day period.
• After entering the patient’s name, identification card number and purchase amount into the state verification system.
Source: Arizona Revised Statute 36-2806.02.