Phoenix Medical Marijuana Dispensary Urban Greenhouse Dispensary
Hurdles remain for central Phoenix medical-pot facility
By Amy B WangThe Republic | azcentral.comWed Mar 13, 2013 3:44 PM
The half-empty shopping strip at 24 W. Camelback Road looks like so many others in the city: beige stucco walls, Spanish-tile roof, ‘Available’ signs dotting vacant suites.
But by a coincidence of geography and law, one of the spaces in this shopping center could soon house Urban Greenhouse Dispensary, central Phoenix’s first and only medical-marijuana dispensary.
Unlike many other prospective Valley dispensary owners, who seemingly have tried to stay under the radar, the principals behind Urban Greenhouse have taken a pre-emptively open approach. Throughout February, they sent letters to neighborhood leaders in the four historic districts abutting the shopping center: Medlock, Pierson Place, St. Francis and Windsor Square.
Last Wednesday, amid piles of informational booklets and free (non-medicinal) baked goods, Urban Greenhouse held an open house, where about a dozen residents dropped by — most out of curiosity, they said.
“We’re concerned about quality of life, home values and crime reduction,” said AJ Marsden, of the nearby Pasadena Neighborhood Association. “Our main questions were, could they consume on the premises (of the dispensary)? And no, they cannot.”
Urban Greenhouse’s opening date is uncertain. Though the state granted co-owners Brett Carr, William Gibbs and Jeff Cooper a dispensary license last August, they still need to obtain a use permit from Phoenix. Their hearing is scheduled for March 28.
The owners have staked out three suites on the west side of the shopping center. Which one they will use depends on the type of permit they can obtain from the city. The south suite falls too close to Brophy College Preparatory by about 10 feet — by law, medical-marijuana dispensaries must be at least 1,320 feet away from all schools — and would require a variance to open in a school zone.
The central and north suites are just far enough away from area schools, but would still require a variance to open in a residential zone.
‘Nothing to hide’
Despite the uncertainty, the owners have moved forward with publicizing the dispensary.
“At this time, there’s no reason to lay low … we have nothing to hide,” said Kurt Merschman, an attorney for Urban Greenhouse. “I think people are wondering, ‘What is the face of medical marijuana?’ Once they see that it’s very successful businessmen, and we have a patient-focused business model, they become comfortable. It’s your and my neighbors. And so are the patients.”
Renderings for the dispensary show a front waiting area where receptionists and a security guard would check patients’ state-issued cards and identification. By law, patients are allowed up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks. The dispensary would be responsible for checking to see if a patient had already reached the dosage limit for that time period.
Beyond the reception area — past closed-circuit television cameras and a pair of buzzer-operated doors — would be where the actual medicine is dispensed, Merschman said.
“I think after meeting the owners, I felt a little bit more comfortable about it,” said Blanca Melgoza, who lives near the shopping center. “You just never know.”
Merschman said Urban Greenhouse could serve up to five patients at a time, but it’s too early to know how many patients they could anticipate per week. The actual product would not be grown at the office space at 24 W. Camelback because Phoenix requires the cultivation of any crops take place in an industrial or agricultural zone.
Voters in 2010 passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to allow people with certain debilitating medical conditions, including chronic pain, cancer and muscle spasms, to use medical marijuana.
Since Arizona voters approved the medical-marijuana law in 2010, more than 36,000 Arizonans have been approved to smoke or grow marijuana. Of them, the overwhelming majority cite severe and chronic pain as a debilitating medical condition.
The state has limited one dispensary for each of its 126 “Community Health Analysis Areas” — regions that state health officials had previously used to monitor cancer reports.
Phoenix is home to 15 of them, and four more straddle the city’s boundaries. In August 2012, the state health department approved 14 potential dispensaries in Phoenix.
Nearly three years after the vote, potential locations for medical-marijuana dispensaries in Phoenix finally are cropping up around the city.
Urban Greenhouse is just one of a few. This week, the city will hold zoning adjustment hearings for proposed dispensaries Nature’s Healing Center, at 4909 E. Chandler Boulevard in Ahwatukee, and Dreem Green (doing business as Kiwi Medical Centers), at 2841 W. Thunderbird Road in north Phoenix.
Calls to the agents listed for those applications were not immediately returned.