Council hears proposal use warehouses for medical marijuana - WSMV News 4

City Council hears proposal use empty warehouses for medical marijuana cultivation

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson City council members heard a proposal to change the medical marijuana zoning laws in Tucson, to allow for large cultivation sites within city limits.

Current zoning laws state medical marijuana cultivation sites can only be up to 3,000 square feet.  Advocates representing dispensary owners said Phoenix, Santa Cruz County, and Coconino County allowed for cultivation sites to be unlimited in size, which meant businesses in the burgeoning industry were flocking to those places to open up shop.

Demitri Downing, a medical marijuana consultant representing many local dispensaries said at least 10 groups had approached him, and expressed interest in leasing or buying empty warehouses in Tucson, and converting them into medical marijuana cultivation sites.

Downing said this would lead to the creation of dozens of jobs in Tucson.

Dispensary owner Jean-Paul Genet was the operations manager at two dispensaries and cultivation sites in Arizona. 

Genet allowed cameras inside his cultivation site for the first time, to show us how they operate.  Genet's cultivation site was located inside a 10,000 square foot warehouse, that once sat empty in an undisclosed location in Tucson.

Genet said he was only cultivating on about 1,500 square feet of space, the rest of the space was used as a kitchen, harvesting room, nutrient room, etcetera.

The facility was very secure and surrounded by at least thirty surveillance cameras, located both inside and outside the building.  Genet said there was only one way to get in and out of the facility, and every time someone walked through the door, it was recorded and registered within their system.

You had to walk through several locked doors secured by bolts, and key pad entries to get into the actual growing space.  Genet showed us the nutrient room, where they mixed the soil, the cloning room, the vegetative room, the bloom rooms, and the harvesting room.

The facility also had a modern kitchen where they created edibles like brownies, popcorn, pesto sauce, peanut butter, and cookies.

Genet said the medical marijuana industry and people's attitudes had come a long way.

"When we started this there were a lot of doubts.  Everybody had to be low key.  Even discussing it people would look at us askance, that was three years ago.  Now look at us," said Genet.

Dispensary owners said the demand for medical marijuana was high.  They were finding it difficult to keep enough stock on hand.  Dispensary owners within Tucson tried to help each other out if they ran out of certain strains, but everyone was struggling to meet the demand.

"It goes up everyday, we are adding new card holders to the list everyday.  We have people going to Phoenix because they can't get the product they want here," said Genet.

Growing their own medical marijuana plants would allow dispensary owners to control the cost and quality of the product.  Genet said Tucson's current limit of 3,000 square feet was not enough to feed the local demand.

"I would like to see a minimum of 50,000 square feet.  This industry is growing very fast," said Genet.

City council leaders heard the proposal during study session on Tuesday, and directed staff to get them more information.

Ward 6 councilman Steve Kozachik expressed some concern over whether this was a good idea for Tucson. 

Downing said the proposal was a good one for Tucson's economy. 

"What happens is vacant warehouses are turned into jobs, landlords are happy and the brokers who rent the space are happy," said Downing.

Genet planned to open up another 3,000 square foot medical marijuana greenhouse near the airport.  The new facility is expected to be up and running in a few months.

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