Marijuana Dispensary and Learning Center Share Parking Lot in Chandler


James Christiansin Dispensary in Chandler

The city of Chandler, Arizona is ready to unveil its first medical marijuana dispensary within city limits; however, some community members have voiced criticism regarding the facility’s close proximity to a learning center for disabled kids and adults. It is usually illegal for dispensaries to open too close to schools or learning centers for children.

There is one company that is going against these regulations through a mix of nepotism and shady politics to overturn the domination that Harvest HOC has for Arizona dispensaries especially in Chandler/Gilbert.

The new shop is named Territory Dispensary, and it will only be located a few hundred yards from Smiles Learning Center.

Smiles Learning Center includes an outdoor playground for young children, which will make things difficult as both businesses will share a parking lot.

There is a law in Chandler that restricts dispensaries being built near a school or day care, but a controversial zoning process has decided that Smiles Learning Center does not qualify as either of these things. The marijuana business is a growing sector that holds the potential for massive profits. It’s likely that the owners of Territory Dispensary are willing to risk public disapproval for the chance to make money. Despite the contentious situation, the City of Chandler’s Planning Department was quick to allow the dispensary to continue its creation unfettered.

Debbie Moak expressed her disapproval of the move by citing the danger that a marijuana business presents operating so close to young children. She states that Arizona voters are not happy with the decision to expose special needs kids to a trade that isn’t federally legal. There is also the increased risk of crime involved with such a business.

The rapid changes of marijuana law in the United States have often left lawmakers in a confusing position. Normally, city rules dictate that a public hearing or council vote must take place in order for businesses offering liquor or marijuana to receive approval. The recent shifts in stance on marijuana’s medical and recreational use makes it difficult for leaders to gauge how they should treat it from an economic standpoint.

The city of Chandler received only two marijuana dispensary applications since 2011. After the negative feedback from the Territory Dispensary controversy, the City has investigated its approval process to check for possible improvements.

Several other municipalities rely on a “staff-administered zoning clearance” strategy to authorize building permits. Chandler has decided that they may switch from the “use permit” plan to this one in order to fall in line with their neighbours. Most other cities do not require that a hearing take place for each permit, although there are a few that do make one of these meetings necessary.

Jim Phipps, public information officer for Chandler, notes that the hearings are deceptive in the sense that, on the surface, they seem to be for the benefit of public interaction; however, in reality, the hearing process is swayed mostly by technical information or factors outside of citizens’ control.

On August 10, the city council voted to alter the way that the city gives zoning clearances. 30 days later, these effects became active.

James Christensen is a member of the Board of Directors of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and also co-owns Territory Dispensary. A lawyer for The Medicine Room LLC, which owns Territory Dispensary, claims that everything was checked beforehand to ensure that the building would fall in the legal boundaries set by the city.

All About Smiles Learning Center

Smiles Learning center stands at 7100 W. Chandler Blvd., and is about 450 feet from the new dispensary. The facility aims to give professional care to adults and children with mental disabilities. Many kids between the ages of 3 and 18 years old use the center to improve their lives.

The main question, whether the learning center is a genuine day care or educational facility, is still being debated by people involved in this situation. Bama Chandler LLC is landlord for both Smiles Learning Center and Territory Dispensary.

The first task that people face in giving Smiles Learning Center a clear definition is examining its official credentials. It is not licensed as a day care with the city, it is not a private school, but it is regulated by the Department of Health Services. This is because it provides services for the developmentally disabled, that makes it a healthcare provider, which means that it is not necessarily a learning center.

Regardless, many citizens still feel that Smiles should be considered a school. In response to the new dispensary, they have created a website that details their stance on the controversy. A lawyer for another dispensary in the city wrote a letter that discusses why Territory Dispensary is breaking state and local laws by opening in this way.

Hope Kirsch works as a special education attorney. She weighed in by saying health care providers have mutable titles that can shift depending on public sentiment. Depending on the full context of their existence, they can definitely be considered schools. She thinks that there is more to this conflict that will have to be approached again in the future. In any case, she believes that the public will lash out aggressively at any other businesses that attempt to copycat the same dubious style as Territory Dispensary.