Feb 202013

By Linda Kor
Overgaard Compassion Care will get another shot at obtaining a special use permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary for the Heber/Overgaard area. The Navajo County Board of Supervisors has agreed to once again hear the issue at a public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Last November the board held a public meeting to review the request for the permit for an existing office building located on Highway 260 that is currently zoned for commercial/residential use. Despite being informed that the company was in compliance with all state and county requirements, the board declined the request in a 3-1 vote. That decision was likely influenced by testimony of residents from the area who cited concerns for public safety and the potential for criminal activity due to the dispensing of marijuana.
In moving to deny the permit, District IV Supervisor David Tenney stated that his decision was based on a “need to stand on principle,” adding that marijuana use is a criminal act according to federal law, and that he believed it to be a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the community of Heber-Overgaard.
County Public Works Director Trent Larson explained that it is within the purview of the board to reconsider a matter previously ruled upon.
“I’m not certain why the board is wanting to reconsider the matter, I just know that they are able to do so,” stated Larson.
Phone calls to Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon regarding the matter were not returned by press time.
Within Navajo County, the Heber/Overgaard and Snowflake Community Health Analysis Area (CHAA) is the only area that falls outside of a municipality, which is why the decision to allow a dispensary has gone before the Board of Supervisors. Dispensary certificates were also awarded for the Winslow and Holbrook CHAAS, and although dispensaries have yet to open in either of these cities, Winslow has already approved a special use permit for the opening of a dispensary in the community. In Holbrook no one has come forward to make that request. Certificates, which were awarded last August, expire after one year and according to the ADHS, those awarded a certificate must submit final documentation at least 60 days prior to that expiration date in order to receive final approval.
On the state level, a bill is currently in the Senate that would bring the Medical Marijuana Act back to the ballot for voters to reconsider. In addition, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has taken his case against the opening of a Sun City dispensary to the Arizona Supreme Court. He contends if the Supreme Court accepts his legal arguments it would wipe out the entire Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.