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'No Weed On Central' Fighting Dispensary Zoning Ruling

As Arizona’s medical marijuana sales rise, more dispensaries are opening in Phoenix. But these businesses are limited as to where they can open. For example, the building must be at least 500 feet from residential lots and 1,320 feet from schools, places of worship and some other types of facilities.

But last month, the city’s Board of Adjustment approved an application for a dispensary that will be located within 500 feet of a residential district, near the corner of Central Avenue and Thomas Road.

Alan Stephenson is the city’s director of Planning and Development. "The parcels that are zoned residential are in an area that is designated for mixed-use, high rise development along our Central Ave. corridor. So it’s not an area that is within a residential neighborhood," Stephenson said.

The dispensary will also be near a place of worship, but Stephenson says that it’s a chapel inside a hospital, so it doesn’t fall under the same rules.

A group of community members disagrees with these interpretations. And they started a petition called “No Weed on Central.” Former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is with that group.

There are dozens and dozens of schools and churches that now rent portions of buildings. People are going to start waking up and finding these medical marijuana dispensaries in places that nobody anticipated whether they support it or not.

He says the board’s decision to grant a variance to this dispensary sets a precedent for future dispensaries and where they could be located. The “No Weed on Central” petition called for a rehearing of the case, which was not granted by the Board of Adjustment.

Gordon says the city should makes the rules for dispensaries more firm and "and adopt an ordinance that can’t be changed unless the council changes it and that way, citizens have a right to go to the council," Gordon said.

He says the group has invested $20,000 into the petition. So far, it’s debating next steps, which may include appealing the decision to the state Superior Court.

Steve Goldstein was a host at KJZZ from 1997 to 2022.