Mesa seeks to seclude shops selling medical pot

2010-12-11T00:00:00Z Mesa seeks to seclude shops selling medical potGarin Groff East Valley Tribune Arizona Daily Star
December 11, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Mesa won't let medical-marijuana shops open in most of its commercial districts, with city leaders saying they don't want the substance sold near neighborhoods or in prominent locations.

Instead, the shops will be forced to industrial areas and just one kind of commercial use.

The city is taking a different approach from most other Arizona cities, which so far have been restricting the shops to commercial zones. The city staff had proposed that kind of regulation, but members of the City Council feared that would put the stores at the corner of major intersections.

The stores will be restricted from most areas in the city, as they must be at least a mile from each other, 2,400 feet from rehab facilities, 1,200 feet from churches and schools, and 500 feet from day-care facilities or preschools.

A map prepared by the city shows only slivers of land where the shops could open. But when council members saw a close-up map of two major intersections, they saw that even most of the shopping centers were within those exclusion zones - while the areas at the intersection were permissible.

Councilwoman Dina Higgins noted that would force the shops to the most prominent spots - which is what she wants to avoid.

The city had figured the commercial areas would deter crime, as traffic and pedestrians would have an eye on the shops most of the time. Industrial zones might be so hidden that there would be no witnesses to burglaries or attacks on customers to steal their marijuana, said Gordon Sheffield, the city's zoning administrator. The approach was based on research by California police after that state legalized medical marijuana.

However, Mesa police said there are no clear statistics, and there's been mixed information about whether crime has been an issue around the shops.

The city is still drafting rules and expects to formally adopt them in January.

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