KINGMAN – As a volunteer police officer in this northwestern
Arizona city, Harley Pettit saw young people get in trouble for
everything from drugs and alcohol to vandalism. In a small
community with not a lot to do, he said, the last thing young
people need is another way to get into trouble.
He’s worried that’s exactly what medical marijuana will give
“I think it’s a given that it’s going to get abused,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of fact.”
Pettit voted against Proposition 203, and election records show
that the city as a whole rejected the proposition last November by
a margin of about 52 percent to 48 percent. In fact, Mohave County
was one of 12 counties among 15 in Arizona where more people voted
against the proposition.
But now Kingman must make plans for medical marijuana, and
Pettit said he has no choice but to help his city limit the
“The way I was brought up, it’s just citizenship 101,” he said.
“If you don’t like the laws, you work to get them changed.”
In the meantime, Pettit turned to his only remaining outlet,
showing up to Kingman Planning and Zoning Commission meetings and
urging members to not allow a marijuana dispensary inside the city
Sandi Reynolds, a commissioner, said she and other members felt
the same way as Pettit.
“I think not only I but most of the people on the commission
were thinking that this was not going to happen in Kingman,”
Reynolds said. “If we had any way to not allow it in Kingman, we
were going to not allow it.”
But when it came down to creating zoning requirements, excluding
medial marijuana dispensaries from the city just wasn’t a legal
option, she said. The commissioners reluctantly voted to allow them
in one type of commercial area and the city’s industrial zones.
Most cities in Arizona have already approved zoning regulations
in preparation for June 1, when the Department of Health Services
will start accepting applications for dispensaries, said Ken
Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and
Towns. Mos communities have taken a similar route as Kingman by
allowing dispensaries in industrial areas, Strobeck said, with few
willing to let them operate in main business areas.
“I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer, but it is
purely a matter of local control, and that is something we support
in that each city should be able to make the decision that is right
for them,” he said.
However, Strobeck said it could take at least a year before
cities and the Arizona Department of Health Services begin to learn
what works best.
“It’s hard to know until we live with it for a while,” he
Proposition 203 allows patients with debilitating medical
conditions to obtain 2.5 ounces of marijuana, on the recommendation
of their doctor, from a medical marijuana dispensary every 14 days.
Patients who live more than 25 miles from a dispensary will be
allowed to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants in a closed and
The law allows municipalities to make reasonable zoning
regulations for the placement of dispensaries, while the Department
of Health Services is charged with creating and implementing rules
for issuing ID cards for patients and allocating and licensing
The proposition allows Arizona to have one dispensary for every
10 pharmacies in the state, which currently amounts to 124
In order to distribute the dispensaries evenly, the department
divided the state into 124 zones, with one dispensary allowed in
each zone. These zones are modifications of the state’s 126
Community Health Analysis Areas, which the department uses to track
health trends like cancer rates.
Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health
Services, said the zoning scheme was a response to law enforcement
and communities asking the department to try to make sure that as
little of Arizona as possible was outside of a 25-mile radius from
“What we tried to do was strike a balance between making sure
there was access to medical marijuana in rural areas, avoiding
urban clustering and minimizing the grow-your-own areas in the
state,” he said.
On March 28, the department issued the final draft of the rules
governing medical marijuana. On April 14, it started accepting
applications from patients.
Mohave County will have eight dispensaries, one of which will be
located somewhere in one the county’s largest medical marijuana
zones containing Kingman, Golden Valley and Oatman but also
extending south about 60 miles to include Wikieup, Yucca, Franconia
Reynolds said the members of Kingman’s Planning and Zoning
Commission were hoping to make the city’s regulations so strict
that it would be too difficult to operate a dispensary within the
city limits. That was before the city attorney advised the
commission that a zoning ordinance that strict would probably fall
outside the proposition’s allowance for “reasonable” rules.
Even if the commission could have banned dispensaries in the
city, she said, members realized that having having one might be
their best option. Without a dispensary within 25 miles, patients
would be able to grow marijuana in their homes.
“We then kind of shifted gears and thought in terms of what was
the best way for us to keep it as uncomplicated as possible.” she
Pettit, who moved to Kingman because it was an inexpensive place
to retire, said that having the dispensary in the city will likely
overtax the police force and cost the city more money than it can
afford. If the dispensary were outside the city, it would become
Mohave County’s problem.
“I wouldn’t mind if it was just on the street that borders the
city limits,” he said.
Other kinds of businesses, such as adult bookstores, are
excluded from the city, he noted.
“I think we should have enough say in our destiny to say we
don’t want that kind of business here,” he said.
In early May, Kingman’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted to
allowed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city’s service
business commercial zones and in light and heavy industry zones.
Soon after, the City Council approved the commission’s
Reynolds said that even though the proposition prohibits
dispensaries within 500 feet of sensitive locations like schools
and churches, the commissioners wanted to make sure that they would
be far away from children and community areas.
“I think in order to comply with what the citizens voted for I
think we’ve absolutely done the best we can,” Reynolds said. “Maybe
to the point of agreeing to some things that personally they don’t
even agree to.”
In the rural areas of Arizona, cities have gone through a
similar thought process, said Andrew Myers, who acted as the
campaign manager for Proposition 203. Cities start with hating the
idea of a dispensary, he said, then realize that the alternative
would be marijuana growing in homes and finally decide that having
a dispensary is the best option.
It is a conclusion that the Western Arizona Law Enforcement
Association has been encouraging through its members in cities
across Mohave, La Paz and Yuma counties, said Robert DeVries, the
association’s chairman and Kingman’s police chief. DeVries said the
association has been working to address common questions and
problems medical marijuana could bring up for police.
“Everybody was in agreement that having a dispensary in the
community is better for the community,” DeVries said.
In fact, Dwayne “Rusty” Cooper, captain of the patrol division
for the Kingman Police Department, said it would be nice to have
the dispensary right next door to the station.
“It would be easy for us to just keep tabs on it,” Cooper said.
“It made a lot more sense.”
Myers said that rural communities have been much better about
creating more reasonable zoning rules. Some have even placed them
near police stations or in busy commercial areas.
Cities that enacted the strictest zoning rules did so early and
probably out of fear of the unknown, Myers said. Over time, as
cities become familiar with the people running dispensaries, it’s
possible that dispensaries will be able to move. Until then, he
said, cities run the risk of creating a self-fulfilling
“You kind of get what you zone for,” he said. “If you are
putting it in a place with undesirable businesses, you are going to
be getting an undesirable business.”
The business potential of a dispensary was attractive in Globe,
the Gila County seat about 80 miles east of Phoenix. It’s allowing
a dispensary in the middle of downtown.
“We just wanted to stimulate the economy locally,” said Chris
Collopy, Globe’s director of planning and zoning.
Collopy said the city approved zoning measures for dispensaries
even before Proposition 203 passed. Officials requested proposals
from potential medical marijuana dispensary contractors that
outlined all of the details for operating a dispensary, and Globe
even offered up city property in the historic downtown district to
house the facility.
By January, the city had six proposals to choose from, Mayor
Fernando Shipley said.
Shipley said he and other city officials knew early on that
Arizona would have a limited number of dispensaries and that
patients would be able to grow marijuana if a dispensary was too
far away. Their intent, he said, was to make sure the city was at
the front of the line for a dispensary.
“If at all possible we wanted to be one of the areas that had a
distribution center,” he said.
To Shipley’s surprise, the aggressive strategy didn’t draw any
ire from residents. He said he was even more astounded when four of
the proposals were from locals, well-known and respected members of
Though the proposal the city ultimately accepted wasn’t from a
Globe resident, it goes far beyond the city’s requirements to have
a strong focus on community development, Shipley said. The
dispensary is in a different location from the building the city
had offered for use, but it will still be about 30 yards from both
the police and fire stations.
Globe Farmacy, pending approval from the state Department of
Health Services, will be located in a historic building downtown,
according to the proposal submitted to the city. The dispensary is
expected to initially create 25 jobs, most of which will go to
Globe residents. As a nonprofit, Globe Farmacy also proposes to use
proceeds after expenses to establish a fund for community needs,
like supporting local services and ensuring the dispensary doesn’t
burden the community.
While it wasn’t his intent, Shipley said he isn’t opposed to the
idea that it could stimulate Globe’s economy through increased foot
traffic from patients in the downtown area.
“We would be happy to take their money if they want to hang out
in town,” he said.
If Globe’s leaders had decided to paint all the curbs blue,
Shipley said he would have had 100 angry citizens on his hands.
Through the entire public process of approving a medical marijuana
dispensary and a marijuana growing facility in the middle of
downtown, only one resident showed up to speak against the
“I think it is because we let them know what our main concern
was, and our main concern was protecting the people of Globe,”
Shipley said. The city did everything it could before the
proposition went into effect, he said.
In Payson, a Gila County community about 85 miles to the
northeast of Phoenix, Ray Erbanson, community development director,
said the city has already approved zoning rules, and, like Globe,
also experienced little outcry or input from citizens.
“They understood that what we were doing was reasonable and
there was really nothing we could do beyond that,” he said.
Payson will allow dispensaries in the general commercial
district, highway commercial district and industrial districts.
From here, Erbanson said, it is just a matter of addressing
problems if they come up and adapting.
“At this point we just don’t know what the impact is going to
be, so I think everybody is just watching to see how it is going to
turn out,” he said.
Strobeck, with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said that
cities just have to look to California and Colorado to get an idea
of how dispensaries will affect them.
“In general, the marijuana dispensaries there have blended in
with the rest of the commerce in cities,” he said.
Most cities have had similar experiences to those of Globe and
Payson, Strobeck said, in that there has been little tension
surrounding the creation of zoning rules for dispensaries.
“I think the general response has been: ‘This is now a law we
have to deal with, so let’s make this work the best that we can and
move on,’” he said. “It’s just one of those things that now we have
to live with.”