PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Planning and Development Department has approved a company’s plan of development for a medical-marijuana dispensary in Sun City, one of the final hurdles before the facility can open. The department’s Oct. 17 action allows White Mountain Health Center, Inc., to begin renovating a vacant suite in a strip mall at 9420 W. Bell Road, according to Cari Gerchick, the county’s communications director. The mall is located on the north side of Bell at the intersection with Burns Drive. Attorney Jeffrey S. Kaufman, who also sits on the board of directors that runs White Mountain, said the business hopes to complete work by mid-November, which would enable it to be inspected by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Sun City Fire Department. If it passes those tests, the dispensary could begin serving state-approved medical-marijuana patients, Kaufman said, adding he hopes for an opening by Thanksgiving. 54475566d84b7.image“We’re absolutely elated,” the attorney said. “This took 27 months.” Last week’s county action followed a pair of Maricopa County Superior Court rulings against county officials on two grounds that would have prohibited dispensaries in unincorporated areas such as Sun City. Judge Michael D. Gordon Dec. 3, 2012, ruled the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act does not supersede Arizona’s medical-marijuana law. Gordon found the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment’s “anti-commandeering rule” bars Washington from directing states how to enforce their medical-marijuana laws including their conditions for locating dispensaries. On Oct. 14, 2013, Gordon found a revised Maricopa County zoning law was an illegal attempt to thwart White Mountain’s plans by limiting dispensaries to industrial areas. There are no such designated areas within the state-approved dispensary district that includes Sun City. County Attorney Bill Montgomery is appealing the rulings before the Arizona Court of Appeals, which has combined the two cases into one. No date has been set for arguments, according to Montgomery’s spokesman, Jerry Cobb. However, Kaufman said prior rulings cited by the court, as well as decisions in other states, make it unlikely the Maricopa County Superior Court rulings will be overturned. He also pointed to the recent approval, confirmed by Gerchick, that the county gave to a site plan for another unincorporated location just outside the village of Ahwatukee in southeast Phoenix. “I don’t know what would stop it (White Mountain’s project),” Kaufman said. “The whole issue of federal pre-emption is extremely complex. The gist is whether Congress declared they fully intend to occupy a certain field of endeavor. They clearly did not intend to occupy the entire area of medical marijuana, which means states can make their own laws,” he explained. Such laws exist in 23 states, he noted. Inside the 1,700-square-foot suite Tuesday, a three-member work crew already had removed the old floor and was installing a new one. Later, they will add modular display cases, office furniture and other amenities. The dispensary, in a suite at the east end of the building, will be clearly marked with a lettered sign and logo over its building entrance and will be listed on a mall directory sign just off the sidewalk. Butch Williams, another board member, said there will be a series of security measures required by the state, including uniformed guards and video cameras with a live, 24 hour, 7-day-a-week feed to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The guards will be carry tasers but not firearms, he said. A lobby and greeting area in the front portion of the dispensary will be available to patients and the general public. Farther back, consultation areas will be restricted to patients, where they will be advised on products including smokeable marijuana, oils, marijuana in substance form that can be rubbed on, and a variety of edibles. Another increasingly popular method of use is through vaporizing; using heated air to release the chemicals inside cannibas but creating no smoke. Staff will include a medical director, a position required at each dispensary, to oversee operations and training. The director can be present or on call. State law bars dispensary personnel from writing prescriptions, which must come from a doctor who has confirmed the individual’s presence of one of the medical conditions treatable with marijuana under the law. Originally slated for a suite in a medical office building at 99th Avenue and Greenway Road, the dispensary’s operators received county permission two years ago to shift their site to the one on Bell. They had hoped to operate out of a strip mall on the road’s south side, but that turned out to be too close to a pair of churches, Kaufman and Williams said. The current site is more central to the state-established health district that includes Sun City, one of 126 such districts under Arizona’s medical-marijuana program. “This is a nice, high-profile location near Loop 101. We expect to do an exceptionally good business,” Kaufman said. Medical marijuana became legal in Arizona in November 2010, after voters approved the initiative requiring the health department to set up a program within six months of passage. By April 2011, patients began applying for identification cards required of anyone to legally obtain the substance for medical purposes. Any patient registered with the health department can obtain medical marijuana legally at any state-sanctioned dispensary. Laura Oxley, communications director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said as of Sept. 30, 80 dispensaries have been licensed and are operating throughout the state, which is allowed to grant 126 licenses — one for each health district — under the program. Gerchick, the county spokeswoman, said there are 371 registered patients in Sun City alone; 115 in Sun City West. Three Sun City patients each said they are enthusiastically anticipating the opening of the new dispensary. Ron Eisenberg, who suffers from chronic pain due to epilepsy, said he had used marijuana for years prior to it becoming legal for medical use in Arizona. “I had been having a lot of issues and not getting the relief I wanted from pharmaceuticals. That led me to seek an alternative. Having access to it in my own city is fantastic,” he said. Don Ream, 66, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from insomnia as well as chronic back pain from years as a warehouse worker and truck driver, said he’s excited about the coming facility. “I’ve been down the gamut with everything (remedies) but surgery, chiropractic, radio-frequency treatments (which use a laser to burn away nerves). We’ve been hoping there would be a medical-marijuana dispensary ever since it became legal,” he said. His wife, Kathleen, 73, suffers from fibromyalgia as well as chronic neck and back pain. A former nurse and an eight-month medical marijuana user, she said her primary benefit has been being able to wean herself off prescription medications. “I think it (the dispensary) is going to be great for the community,” she said. Article:”County Clears Plan for Medical Marijuana Facility in Sun City.” Your West Valley News. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2015. Image:Jeff Grant/ Daily News-Sun