The Tempe City Council voted on whether or not to lift the cap, currently at two, on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the city. The state statute gives cities the authority to enact zoning regulations and other restrictions on the Dispensaries. The result was, well, sort of like wetting the bed, a bit of relief but then cold and stinky. The Council voted 4-2-1 to lift the cap but imposed additional zoning restrictions (Dispensaries can be located no less than one-mile apart, 1500 feet from a day care or school (including ASU and residential areas). So considering the geography of the city (10miles x 4miles) and the requirements for security and the actual square footage of a dispensary and available retail space that fits the requirements, there could be up to 5 or 6 dispensaries in Tempe. So while the City council did lift the cap, the additional zoning requirements limit the actual possible number of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, which could have been upwards of 30 or more.
During the meeting many people testified; particularly the two people who were awarded by the State of Arizona new licenses to operate Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, who bemoaned their difficulty of finding retail space that fits the zoning requirements in Tempe to operate a dispensary and if they are not up and running by mid-October their license becomes void. Also testifying were those who are against lifting the cap, including concerned parents, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, Substance Abuse Treatment Professionals and a representative from the Office of the President of ASU. Ironically one of the current Dispensary owners testified against expansion since the two dispensaries that operate in Tempe only sell 15% of their allotted inventory. So obviously the “medical” need is being more than adequately met in Tempe.
Many of the Council members focused only on the legal issues, almost all were in favor of medical use marijuana. What seems to have gotten lost in the discussion was the moral responsibility that governments have in trying to restrain vice. Funny how today many are asking how we came to have an opioid epidemic in the US but seem to forget that it started somewhere small and would have remained small if it had been nipped in the bud sooner. With Medical and Recreational Marijuana we are sowing the seeds for another major societal problem that will have to be dealt with later, after much damage has been done.
So in order to be proactive we have to stay vigilant. Currently signatures are being gathered for another ballot proposition to remove the criminal penalties associated with illegal possession of marijuana. This is backdoor way of legalizing recreational marijuana. Marijuana vending machines are currently being tested, strange considering we outlawed tobacco vending machines. Also in the works is a marijuana themed radio station: smoke weed all day and listen on the radio about the glories of pot. Pathetic. On the positive side, Gov. Ducey vetoed a bill that would have made Hemp cultivation legal in AZ.
I know many people like to compare legalized recreational marijuana to alcohol but consider that alcohol is still the number one most dangerous substance. More suffer or die from alcohol than any other substance. But because of its acceptance both legally and socially, alcohol is almost impossible to restrict. So why create another legal intoxicating substance that we won’t be able to control and that will increase the damage to society and individuals. Let’s keep this horse in the gate. (The AZ Dept. of Health listed the stats on Medical Marijuana in AZ on its website. Reading the stats is very eye opening to the fact that the program is massively abused).
Thanks to all of you who contacted the City Council expressing your concerns and asking that the cap on dispensaries not be lifted. The two council members who voted not to lift the cap were Mayor Mark Mitchell and Vice- Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage. Send them a thank you.
In the meantime we will continue to be on the front lines helping our families and young people who struggle with substance abuse and related issues through our FullCircle Program. What I can tell you for sure is that the overwhelming majority of young people we see (hundreds over the last few years) tell us their journey and love affair with mind-altering substances began with marijuana or alcohol.
I ask for you continued support of our FullCircle Program, currently we are looking to expand to four new cities, where other parishes also want the Church to be on the front lines of helping our families affected with this ever growing scourge.
Fr. John B.