What Are They Smoking?

A variety of factors are now coming to light about the true motivation for a “legal protest” against a plan to replace a tattoo parlor with a medical marijuana dispensary on the east side of the Galleria Corporate Center in downtown Scottsdale.  Those motivations according to local media reports include a desire to assemble the city block where the Sunday Goods dispensary would be located for a high-rise project instead.  There also appear to be at least two attempts for political extortion by certain protesting property owners to exchange their concerns for buying their properties.

Opponents are using the age old trick of throwing everything up against the wall to see what sticks.  Analysis shows not much does, or should.

As a reminder the State of Arizona issued a license for a new medical marijuana dispensary in 2016 for the Southern Scottsdale Community Health Assessment Area because it determined it was one of the most underserved in the state.

Sunday Goods won a competitive bid for the license awarded by the State Department of Health Services.  It then approached the City of Scottsdale Planning Department to determine where they could go in the city.  At first, the answer was nowhere due to the city’s stringent regulations and space requirements for medical marijuana. That would have been illegal as cities cannot zone dispensaries out of existence.  So after some 18 months of analysis the answer was a mere 11 properties on the east side of the Galleria Corporate Center were qualified to host a dispensary. The properties are an eclectic assortment including a tattoo parlor, infamous bar and another bar owned by a San Diegan.

According to Sunday Goods, the company would have gone anywhere the city told them.  McDowell Road in an old car dealership.  A shopping center.  Wherever. But this area is where the city told them to go.

Ultimately, two properties agreed to sell their properties to Sunday Goods, one of which was the tattoo parlor.  A conditional use permit and rezoning would be required to make Sunday Goods a reality.

The Scottsdale Planning Commission passed Sunday Goods with a strong vote and then just prior to the City Council hearing a legal protest was filed by some adjoining properties necessitating five votes instead of four to pass.

Since then a lot of information has been circulated including by the newly formed “Old Town Alliance,” who more resemble ambulance chasers and the Village People than a coherent confab.  They have taken aim at the dispensary, Southbridge 2 and a proposed apartment project on the southern edge of downtown called Bishop Lane.

We don’t disparage their civic engagement and perhaps even agree with them on one of the projects but it has been interesting to discover that some of their biggest supporters don’t take issue with the dispensary. Nor should they.

FACT:  Sufficient and indeed excess parking can be provided on-site.

FACT:  Unlike alcohol in bars nearby on patios medical marijuana cannot be consumed likewise on in public places or if special event liquor licenses are obtained.

FACT:  The Old Town Alliance has politically threatened councilmembers yet emails show it has very little money to do anything, or even pay its lawyers and consultants.  Indeed, their promised advocacy appears to have failed to materialize yet commercials in support of the dispensary have started.

FACT:  Input to date received at the City of Scottsdale overwhelmingly favors the dispensary as do public opinion polls.

FACT:  Certain property owners have sought to exchange their opposition to medical marijuana for property acquisition.  So much for compelling concerns.

FACT:  City regulations limit the hours of operation from 6a-7p and Sunday Goods has expressed willingness to reduce them further as needed.

FACT: Yes, a rezone is required but it is actually a DOWNZONE meaning future uses would be far less intensive than what is allowed today, or would be allowed by a future high-rise which has not identified where its parking would go.

FACT:  A nearby school is under contract to relocate should Sunday Goods proceed.

FACT:  A nearby education consultancy is not a “school” as deemed by Arizona or Scottsdale and is similar to uses near other dispensaries in other parts of Scottsdale.  The world hasn’t ended there nor would it here.  And any education consultancy that decides to locate next door to one of the worst bars in Scottsdale and one that has demeaned women shouldn’t know be lecturing anyone about medical marijuana.

FACT: Cities cannot zero out licensed dispensaries meaning the City of Scottsdale could irresponsibly spend exorbitant sums of money defending itself in a lawsuit only to have the dispensary without the restrictions now being proposed.

FACT:  No dispensary in Scottsdale has caused public safety problems according to the Scottsdale Police Department.

FACT: Dispensary competitors are lobbying against the proposed location.

FACT:  Many other Arizona cities have dispensaries in downtowns and mid-towns as do peer tourism cities like Beverly Hills, Aspen, Telluride, Santa Barbara, etc.

At the end of the day Scottsdale has a decision to make about fidelity to the law.  Or it can needlessly engage this issue and its cost indefinitely rather than properly settle it now with a conscientious Scottsdale-based company that seeks to do right by the neighborhood and the patients it seeks to serve.