Buckeye City Council member Jeanine Guy asks questions during Tuesday’s meeting. The council gave Development Services feedback on what type of restrictions to create, in proposed code, for cannabis facilities.
BUCKEYE — Most Arizona municipalities have had some council discussions regarding cannabis establishments since Arizona voters chose to make recreational use legal in November 2020. Many have taken some action.
The Buckeye City Council might be one of the next municipalities to act.
The council heard a short presentation Tuesday, Sept. 20, from Bart Wingard of Development Services regarding cannabis-related business restrictions.
While his visual aids were mainly focused on comparisons among action taken by similar-size cities and Phoenix, the input he sought from council ended up leaning toward a restrictive approach.
Wingard made the presentation at a workshop where no official council action was taken.
He pointed out state law prohibits Arizona municipalities from placing any barriers on recreational establishments that are more restrictive than any on medical cannabis sites.
However, cities, towns and counties can pass ordinances prohibiting various types of cannabis facilities from being established at all.
Wingard’s chart showed Buckeye code allows medical dispensaries and cultivation facilities. However, recreational dispensaries, dual-licensed dispensaries, testing facilities and infusion/manufacturing facilities are not mentioned.
He showed a comparison chart showing actions taken by Valley communities since Proposition 207 was passed by voters in 2020. Using Flagstaff, Phoenix and 10 Valley cities close to or larger than Buckeye in population, Buckeye seems to be behind the curve.
Buckeye is the only one of those 12 municipalities to have “no mention” in four of the six major cannabis facility categories. Glendale has three “no mentions.”
Surprise permits medical and dual-licensed dispensaries. However, that city also prohibits recreational dispensaries, testing facilities and infusion/manufacturing facilities.
Wingard pointed out the Surprise council’s number of members sensitive to cancer patients’ increasing move toward cannabis treatment has changed in recent years, leading to a new overall position on specific ordinances.
Councilor Michelle Hess was the first to weigh in for Buckeye.
“We have so many needs in our fast-growing community, such as grocery stores,” Hess said. “There are so many types of ancillary things we legally can’t keep out. Why should invite another thing in, if we can prohibit it? Let’s get the right things in the right places.”
Vice Mayor Craig Heustis echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t see the upside,” he said. “What’s the city get out of allowing any of these?’
Councilor Jeanine Guy said she’d like to see Buckeye remain without any cannabis establishments.
“We have a lot of land out here and we should encourage wise use of it,” she said.
Councilor Clay Goodman said the decision is difficult. He said it’s important to remove some emotion from discussion of a commodity.
“I’m really kind of on the fence,” Goodman said. “With the limited number of state licenses available, I don’t think we’ll see a whole boulevard here filled with marijuana-related businesses. And I don’t know that we can stop it altogether.”
Goodman said he sees testing and infusion/manufacturing facilities as simple light-industrial businesses. Wingard later concluded, through consensus, the council would like to see some cannabis businesses go into I-2 zones, rather than I-1, or heavy industrial.
Wingard pointed out it might be only a matter of time until cannabis is changed to a less-regulated FDA schedule by the federal government.
Councilor Patrick HagEstad said he prefers the Scottsdale model that involves medical and dual-license dispensaries, exactly like Surprise.
Mayor Eric Orsborn says he likes both the Scottsdale and Surprise models.
Council member Tony Youngker wasn’t at any of Tuesday’s meetings.
Jason W. Brooks is an associate editor for the Daily independent.
He covers the Buckeye area and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Brooks is a well-traveled journalist who has documented life in small American communities in nearly all its time zones. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised there and in suburban Los Angeles, he has covered community news in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.