The Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted Feb. 18 to approve a dairy farmer’s request to use part of his land for an outdoor medical marijuana grow site.
Voting in favor were supervisors Steve Miller (District 3), Anthony Smith (District 4) and Todd House (District 5). Opposing the motion were Chairwoman Cheryl Chase (District 2) and Supervisor Pete Rios (District 1).
The county allows up to eight growing locations countywide in unincorporated areas, and each must be linked to a single dispensary, according to Pinal County Planning Manager Steve Abraham during his presentation to the board.
The presentation and meeting can be viewed on a video available on the supervisors’ website.
Applicant Sidewinder Dairy Inc. was represented by Jordan Rose of Rose Law Group. The applicant had requested a zoning regulation amendment to Title 2 of the Pinal County Development Services Code to amend Chapter 2.191. The amendment would delete the requirement that medical marijuana cultivation take place inside a completely enclosed, locked building, according to the meeting minutes available on the county website.
The request also included the deletion of the size limitation on a cultivation facility’s secure storage area, the addition of a special use permit that could be renewed every two years, a requirement that the cultivation location not exceed 10 acres in size and that no more than eight cultivation sites be available countywide, according to the minutes.
The supervisors approved the amendment request with the following revisions: that the cultivation location be no larger than five acres in size, to reduce the SUP reapplication/renewal period to every year, and for the applicant to submit a security plan for the cultivation facility.
The proposed outdoor cultivation facility will be situated in the center of the Sidewinder Dairy Farm, according to printed materials in the meeting packet, which may be viewed online.
The growing site inside the Casa Grande dairy farm will be secured within 10-foot-tall walls and overseen using 24-hour surveillance cameras with night vision, Ms. Rose told the board.
A secured indoor-drying facility will be situated adjacent to the growing area, she said.
The biggest risk to security is when the crop is transported outside the farm, Ms. Rose said. To mitigate security issues, the applicant has agreed to notifying the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office three days before each crop is to be transported, she said.
“Whoever opens these facilities is highly motivated to protect their crop,” Ms. Rose said.“ It’s not about medical marijuana cultivation. It’s about private property rights.”
Mr. House said he felt satisfied the site would be secure.
“It’s not going to be like a store with ready access from the street. It’s surrounded by a dairy,” he said on the video.
Mr. Smith said he supported farmers and their rights to be able to grow the crops they choose, according to the video. He also said he would like to closely monitor the site to address security concerns expressed by some Pinal County residents during the public comment portion of the meeting. He suggested changing the amendment to require the SUP to be reviewed for renewal on an annual basis and to reduce the size of the cultivation site from 10 acres to five acres.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Cindy Schaider spoke in opposition of the outdoor cultivation site. She said she was thinking about how the state of Colorado’s image has changed since legalizing marijuana use.
“Because of their stand on marijuana, they’ve become a joke on late-night TV. I love Pinal County as do all of you. I don’t want us to become Arizona’s punchline,” she said on the video.
She presented the board with a petition signed by 111 people who also opposed the proposed amendment.
Eight additional people spoke against the measure while 23 people either spoke or submitted public speaker cards in favor of the amendment, according to the meeting minutes.
“Although the Pinal County Planning (and Zoning) Commission voted 9-1 to recommend denial to the board, the board approved this request 3-2. Although the planning commission and a host of other individuals — to include police, individuals and community groups — adamantly opposed the approval, it was passed. There is nothing in the record that states the current (before the vote) PZ-C-001-14 Ordinance was illegal in part or whole. It is implied by some that the requester is anticipating an Arizona approval in 2016, equal to the Colorado marijuana law, ergo the 10-acre plot view,” Glenn Walp of Gold Canyon wrote in a letter to the Independent newspaper.
“We don’t advocate for the use of marijuana, but at the end of the day, the voters of the state did vote to approve medical marijuana,” Mr. Rios said on the video. “I think it will be worse down the road when recreational use probably will be approved based on surveys that have been done. Six, seven, eight counties already allow for open cultivation. … It makes it difficult for some of us in office to try and stop the train because you’re going to get run over.”