City council OKs retail marijuana sales

Photo by Chuck Herrera

PAGE – Page City Council voted unanimously to prepare the way for retail marijuana sales in Page.

The move modifies the Jan. 13, 2021, ordinance that required medical marijuana licenses. Currently, retail dispensaries can operate in Page only with medical license or a dual license (both medical and retail). This is about to change.

Council members supported recreational marijuana sales, and the city has existing zoning and ordinances for a medical dispensary. At the time, allowing medical marijuana sales seemed only the quickest way to prepare for a business to open in Page. While retail cannabis licenses are attached to a region, medical marijuana licenses are not. The previous dispensary in Page moved their license to the Phoenix area, leaving Page at a disadvantage.

Council on April 14 directed city staff to begin working on code amendments to allow retail marijuana sales in Page. The course change follows a March 24 council presentation given by Sara Gullickson, a lobbyist working on behalf of Alyx and Mike Cohan. The Cohans would like to open a retail dispensary using the location previously zoned for the medical dispensary.

The Chronicle reached out to Gullickson April 13 but received no reply as of April 26.

City Attorney Josh Smith, after talking with a representative from the Arizona Department of Health Services, told the Council: “They haven’t even started drafting the rules for the social equity licenses yet, and it would be at the earliest next year before any of those would be issued.”

Smith said ADHS “did not see any new dispensary licenses being available for Page in the foreseeable future.” He added, “Moving forward, depending on what Council wants to do, [with] policy and whether or not you want the ability to have a marijuana shop in Page, it would probably have to be through the social equity license. Whether that’s a realistic possibility is anybody’s guess at this point.”

Councilor Brian Carey said, “As I understand the situation over the past several meetings, how we put ourselves in a bind earlier this year while thinking we were actually doing the opposite, trying to facilitate a license coming to Page by piggybacking on our existing zoning.

“Instead, we may have put ourselves out of the possibility by only allowing a dual-use. It appears that we’re not going to get the medical dispensary license back in Page. (The) one we thought was here actually belonged to the owner and went away to the Valley. So, we’re out of luck.”

The hard-to-get licenses are worth millions of dollars, and their values vary based on population; this adds another disadvantage to less populated areas like Page.

ADHS on April 19 held a lottery for 13 retail marijuana licenses for rural areas. It’s a high-stakes game. Applicants put up a nonrefundable $25,000 for a chance. They need to have another $500,000 of capital on hand and a proposed location for the business in the counties they applied for. Coconino County was not in the winners’ circle.

According to AZ Central, “The state collected about $9.4 million from the applications.”

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