The West Valley could see as many as a dozen medical-marijuana dispensaries if every applicant selected in a bingo-style state lottery earlier this month opens for business.
But it's unclear exactly where the proposed dispensaries, which would be allowed to grow and sell marijuana, would open. A state confidentiality law prohibits the Department of Health Services from releasing the locations of the dispensaries or the names of selected applicants.
As would-be dispensaries get closer to opening in the West Valley, a few are struggling to find properties to lease or buy in their assigned regions. Others are working with city officials to get proper permits. Meanwhile, West Valley law-enforcement agencies are making preparations for the medical-marijuana dispensaries.
Arizonans voted to allow people with certain debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana in most places.
But there is still a long way to go before dispensaries can open. Applicants who want to open dispensaries were required to submit a business plan and proof that proposed locations meet with city zoning requirements.
Most cities have a vigorous system to make sure dispensaries comply with use and building permits. However, applicants were not required to go through that process before they were chosen during the state's allocation of dispensary registration certificates. In some cases, no formal city permit approvals have begun.
When the dispensaries seek those additional permits it will be possible to determine which ones received the certificates during the lottery.
10 in West Valley
The health department will allow one dispensary in each of the state's 126 "community health analysis areas."
Previously, state officials have used these zones to monitor cancer reports. Now those boundaries will be used to decide how medical-marijuana dispensaries are dispersed around Arizona. The department received eligible dispensary applications for 97 of the areas.
In the West Valley health officials gave dispensary certificates to applicants in 10 areas: Peoria, north Glendale, west Glendale, Surprise, Sun City West, Goodyear, Avondale, Deer Valley, north Maricopa County and Wickenburg.
The state did not choose applicants for Sun City and central Glendale during the lottery because of pending legal challenges from would-be dispensary owners.
White Mountain Health Center Inc., the only Sun City region applicant, sued the county and the health department in June. The company say its registration certificate was wrongly rejected.
Arizona Organix Inc., one of three central Glendale applicants, sued the Arizona Department of Health Services on Aug. 6 to delay the lottery for that region.
Opening dispensaries around the state is a key step toward implementing the 2-year-old law.
Under the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, dispensaries can grow medical marijuana and can acquire it from other registered non-profit dispensaries or from registered patients or caregivers.
The state has gone forward with the law despite declarations from Attorney General Tom Horne and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the dispensaries violate federal drug laws.
Montgomery has vowed to prosecute operators until a judge rules on the matter. And the county is no longer processing permit applications for dispensaries.
Locations and obstacles

Meanwhile, some dispensary operators say that they are one step closer to opening.
In north Glendale, PP Wellness Center was awarded a permit to open at 8160 W. Union Hills Drive, Suite A-106. It was the only applicant in the region.
PP Wellness Center's Branden Orr said plans are moving forward but declined to comment further.
Daniel Coogan, owner of Golden Leaf Wellness Inc., said his company was selected in the Avondale region, which includes Tolleson. He declined to say in which city the dispensary will open, but said building plans are being finalized.
"The city has made it very difficult through zoning," he said. "We managed to get through that and ended up with a license. But that doesn't mean we have keys to the door yet. All this could not happen just as easily."
Avondale received two dispensary applications. One was rejected because it did not meet the 2,000-foot distance from a charter school. The second applicant said he decided not to go through with the process.
Like other municipalities, the city requires dispensaries to be in industrial areas, said Tracy Stevens, Avondale development services planning manager. It provides a map of the sites online.
"A lot of them aren't existing buildings," she said. "A lot of the medical-marijuana companies really want to go into an existing structure. They don't want to build from the ground up. That may be why we haven't seen anything yet."
City officials in Tolleson said they have yet to receive a formal permit application.
"We get a lot of calls," said City Manager Reyes Medrano Jr., adding that one applicant came closer to filing than others but couldn't find a property to fit his needs.
"We have a lot of big parcels in town," Medrano said. "We don't have a lot of smaller ones. The smallest parcel he could find was five to 10 acres, where he only needed one acre and probably less than one."
High prices

Landlords are hesitant to offer space for a dispensary, Coogan said. He recently spoke with the owner of 40 acres who said he was not opposed to medical marijuana.
However, the owner would not allow Coogan's company to lease an acre or half acre, or part of a building that he has.
"It's the whole NIMBY (not in my backyard) thing, you know," he said.
Also, real-estate prices are too high, Coogan said.
"It doesn't allow for the average guy to get in the game unless they have some backers."
In Goodyear, Michael Morrow said he was awarded a certificate by the state. He declined to provide details, saying he needed to speak with partners.
Morrow is listed as a contact on a zoning-permit application for Valley of the Sun Medical Dispensary Inc. The location is 16200 W. Eddie Albert Way, near Sarival Avenue and Maricopa 85.
He is also listed as the contact for an unnamed dispensary that would be at 13984 W. Lower Buckeye Road in the Airport Commerce Center, according to Goodyear city documents.
Glendale planning Director Jon Froke said he has not been notified where dispensaries within the city's boundaries might end up.
"I would have thought with the lottery commencing two weeks ago that we would have heard something, but we're awaiting any word from DHS," Froke said. "As far as Glendale is concerned, our work is done."
But Department of Health Services spokeswoman Laura Oxley said the next step falls to the dispensaries. "They would be the one to notify the cities," she said. "The 'when' is kind of up in the air."

Now that the lottery is finished, would-be dispensaries must complete additional steps before they can open.
The potential dispensary owners who were selected by the state were issued a letter and code so they can apply for dispensary-agent cards. Once the cards are issued and the city OKs the location, DHS will survey the property to make sure it's ready. Those selected have about a year to complete the process, Oxley said.
If the selected applicant pulls out from one of the regional areas, patients allowed to grow marijuana if they were more than 25 miles from a dispensary would still be able to do so.
The state will turn down requests to grow the plant after cross-referencing applicant address with dispensaries that have operating certificates, Oxley said.
"I think it's pretty well covered, even if they don't end up opening up in every community health analysis area," she said.
West Valley police departments have had general discussions about how they will regulate the dispensaries.
Glendale police spokesman Sgt. Brent Coombs said the department is waiting for direction from Montgomery. A meeting is planned within the next few weeks, he said.
Avondale Police Chief Kevin Kotsur said complaints will be reviewed using the city's ordinance. There can be concerns, he said, if stipulations aren't met in a professional manner.
The Goodyear Police Department implemented policy and training regarding medical marijuana and it intends to work cooperatively with Montgomery's office and other law-enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the law, said Police Chief Jerry Geier.
"If the dispensary or their employees become the victim of a criminal act, the Goodyear Police Department will conduct a full investigation and handle the matter as we would with any other victim or business," Geier wrote in an e-mail.

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