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Apr 8, 2014 8:23 PM by Nathan O'Neal

City to revisit zoning ordinance for medical marijuana grow sites

TUCSON - The city council is considering relaxing some of its rules which limit medical marijuana cultivation sites.

State-licensed dispensaries can currently operate an off-site cultivation center where marijuana can be grown and processed. The city implemented its zoning ordinance before Proposition 203 was passed by voters back in 2010. The ordinance limits cultivation sites by zoning area and limited facilities to no more than 3,000 square feet in size.

However, some argue that ordinance is halting Tucson's ability to grow within the industry. The city council agreed to start the process to re-evaluate its ordinance, including the maximum square footage.

"You can actually get a higher quality product when it comes to what we do -- medical marijuana -- from indoor grows and there's a lot of warehouse space in Tucson. Tucson would be the ideal location to do an indoor cultivation site," said Mohit Asnani of the Downtown Dispensary.

Councilman Paul Cunningham points out that many dispensaries in Tucson currently get their supply from grow sites in other counties.

"If we have it as an import crop and money is going out of our economy and we want to be able to make sure the money is staying in our economy, the only way to do that is to make sure we're supplying what our demand is," Cunningham said.

Pima County and Tucson boast some of the most restrictive rules for off-site cultivation of medical marijuana within the state.

Pima County caps the size of a grow facility at 2,000 square feet. Tucson's maximum size is at 3,000 square feet.

However, cities like Glendale and Mesa allow much bigger facilities ranging up to 25,000 square feet while Phoenix and Flagstaff have no size limit in certain zones.

"In Phoenix you're seeing some very large scale ... 40,000 ... 60,000 cultivation sites. It's not competitive to do a 3,000 cultivation site in Tucson," Asnani told News 4 Tucson.

Cunningham insists that Tucson should consider opening up more space to embrace a booming side of business.

"I don't know if it will be unlimited or to a half million or a quarter million square feet.... but we'll allow that process to take place in the next 30 days," Cunningham said.

The city planning and zoning commission will revisit the current ordinance regarding medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation sites before a formal proposal is brought back to the city council.

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