Arizona House wants to push medicinal marijuana growers away from neighborhoods

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PHOENIX — The House took steps on Monday to push medical marijuana growers farther away from schools, churches and neighborhoods.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said he sponsored the bill on behalf of constituents worried about growing facilities near their homes. Residents should be able to have input on the locations when it could lower nearby property values, Thorpe said.

"The local voters had no opportunity to voice their opinions on whether they want to see it there or not," he said.

One homeowner living near a proposed marijuana cultivation facility voiced concerns that it would not only lower property values, but increase crime. "We feel this bill will protect the innocent," Mike McCrery said.

House Bill 2056, which now awaits a formal vote, would prohibit current and future medical marijuana production, cultivation and infusion facilities from locating within 1,000 feet of a residential area and 1,320 feet of a place of worship, public or private school — including those that already exist within the limits.

Regulating growing facilities is up to counties and cities, although the bill would also keep them from allowing any zoning closer than state law.

Medical marijuana attorney Ryan Hurley of Rose Law Group said the bill is in violation of the voter-approved Medicinal Marijuana Act because it does not further its purpose. "That's directly contrary to the medical marijuana act, and it's hard to argue it furthers the purpose of that act," Hurley said.

The bill would make it extremely difficult for marijuana-growing, cultivation and infusion facilities to find a location that meets the zoning requirements, Hurley said. "It's basically a back-door attack on the medical marijuana industry," he said.

Dave Wisniewski, chairman for SAFER Arizona, which supports legalizing marijuana, said the legislation is representative of the types of prejudices that exist around marijuana. "To put restrictions on this plant just because you are next to a school or a church, there is no scientific basis for that," he said.

Voters approved Proposition 203, which legalized medical marijuana, in 2010.

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