My DHS Wish

I continue to talk to many people who are having a very hard time finding a location to operate their Arizona medical marijuana dispensary.   The Arizona Department of Health Services has inadvertently created a nightmarish situation for would-be dispensary owners who do not own the real property on which to operate a dispensary.  The DHS rules coupled with very restrictive city zoning ordinances and many landlords who simply do not want to lease to a medical marijuana dispensary result in many more prospective dispensary tenants than available properly zoned dispensary sites.  A lot of people have told me that they believe that one or more big money outfits are going around Arizona tying up potential sites with the goal of reducing the number of prospective dispensaries that apply for a dispensary license.

A large number of nonprofit entities are all fighting to tie up a small number of properly zoned and available sites throughout Arizona.  This means that there will not be very many dispensary applications filed by the application deadline.  It is a supply and demand problem.  The demand among would-be dispensaries is high and the supply of properly zoned sites with willing landlords is low.  Econ 101 teaches that when demand exceeds supply, the cost of the item (rent) goes up.  Higher rents mean higher prices passed on to patients.  One of DHS’ goals should be to keep the patients cost of medical marijuana down, not be the cause of patients paying higher prices to purchase their medicine.

The current rules and restrictive city zoning ordinances create a bizzaro world where nonprofits that do not have a license to operate an Arizona medical marijuana dispensary are entering into leases and applying for zoning with cities and they will never get a dispensary license.  For many would be dispensaries it is a total waste of time and money, not to mention a waste of the cash-strapped cities’ time and money.

DHS should clarify in the final version of the rules that would be dispensaries need only to affirm on their applications for a dispensary license that their dispensary and grow locations comply with applicable zoning ordinances without the need to actually apply for or receive a city use permit.  The rules should also allow the winners of a license to change the location of their dispensaries and grow facilities after obtaining a dispensary registration certificate, but before obtaining the final dispensary license.  This would allow a dispensary to change locations after obtaining a dispensary registration certificate if the city denies the zoning use permit or any other problem arises with the site location stated in the initial dispensary application.

DHS:  Please amend the rules to solve this terrible problem that will reduce the number of actual dispensaries, increase the number of patients who grow their own and cause higher rents to be passed on to patients.

See “Phoenix Medical Marijuana Locations Reflect Restrictive Zoning.”