Residents oppose medical marijuana dispensary

- Not in my neighborhood, that is what many central Phoenix residents are saying to a medical marijuana dispensary that wants to set up shop in Phoenix.

Some residents are opposed to a dispensary opening up in the heart of Phoenix near 32nd Street and Shea. There's a high school less than a mile away, homes, and a park about a 1/4 mile away. It meets the city's spacing requirements by a few hundred feet, but neighbors are still saying the business belongs somewhere else.

"I'm afraid for the kids because it's close to here, and they have access to those kinds of places, I don't agree with that," said Maria Haiele.

Maria Haiele does not want to live down the street from a medical marijuana dispensary, but that could soon be the case. The business would set up shop in a retail area, and the vacant building would be completely remodeled.

"I understand their concerns, I think their opposition is based on the fear of the unknown," said Ryan Hurley, an attorney for the dispensary.

Swell Management would run the dispensary, Hurley says the shop would be low-key, with a security guard limiting access into the business, and there would be 24-hour surveillance.

"There's no signage outside to suggest there's even marijuana inside. Every patient has to have a state issued ID card to even get into the facility, so this notion that kids are going to be walking by and be able to purchase marijuana is crazy," said Hurley.

Although this location is not next to a school or park, both are nearby. Shadow Mountain High School is about a 9-minute walk west, and Mercury Mine Park is a 14-minute walk south of the proposed dispensary.

"They need to be 1,320 feet away from the high school, from the property line. And the surveyor found that they are 1,650.42 feet away, so they meet our spacing requirement," said Sandra Hoffman, Deputy Director of Planning.

Several neighbors spoke out at a zoning hearing earlier this month, hoping to stop the dispensary from moving in.

"My concern for the neighborhood is what kind of clientele are you going to bring in," said John Stephenson.

"Take it somewhere else," said Haiele.

It is up to a city zoning officer to decide whether or not to approve the dispensary's use permit. Another public hearing is scheduled for November 19. Those who want to speak out can either attend the meeting or they can call or send an e-mail to the city planning department. The weight of residents concerns will be taken into consideration.

If the dispensary is approved, the shop could open as early as next May.

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