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US: County rejects bid to stop 7.75 acre pot greenhouse in Wilcox

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors unanimously denied an appeal by a Maricopa County resident who wanted a special use permit revoked for a company that plans to grow marijuana in an existing greenhouse near Willcox.

West Edge, LLC, was granted the permit to grow medical marijuana and produce a range of medical products at a facility on Greenhouse Road, about 12 miles north of Willcox, at a meeting Sept. 11. County planning and zoning commissioners voted 5-3 to grant the special permit.

John Curran, Jr., appealed that decision before Supervisors Richard Searle, Ann English and Pat Call at their Nov. 5 meeting. Curran believes that the commissioners’ decision should be overturned because the decision was based on “false information.”

“The commission was capricious in its oversight as it failed to investigate the facts associated with the application or act in a responsible manner,” Curran said in his appeal.

Curran questioned the true identity of the corporation and whether it is a legally-recognized company that can do business in the state. He also said the applicant failed to provide a valid security plan and misrepresented the security outdoor lighting system.

Searle asked Curran if he was involved in any medical marijuana growing and selling operation. Curran said he provides security for a dispensary in Phoenix. That raised a question among supervisors about the intent of the appeal.

Speaking on behalf of West Edge, Randy Smith noted another person was opposed the special use permit because he had tried to purchase the property and was unsuccessful.

Smith pointed out that the market spurred by patients will set the amount of marijuana produced.

He also said the company would try to stay within the county’s lighting code, but that it depended on what the state would require as part of the security plan for the property.

The greenhouse covers 7.75 acres of a 311-acre site. West Edge plans to lease one fourth of the facility to grow medical marijuana and process it into edible medications and oils, said Keith Dennis, Planner II with the county planning and zoning department. That section of the greenhouse will be secured through walls and a separate entrance. No products will be sold on site. Product will be transported to other dispensaries in the state.

Dennis said none of the complaints by Curran can be considered against the special use permit, as the supervisors were dealing with a land use issue only. Medical marijuana cultivation, infusion processes and distribution dispensaries are now a part of the county zoning code and with a special use permit can be established in a rural agricultural area. There are still a number of state regulations that West Edge will have to deal with to become certified and allowed to sell its products.

When West Edge was asked how much water would be used in the marijuana crop cultivation, the company noted that it requires half of the water used to grow tomatoes.

Searle said, “I’ve known the owner of this property for 20 years. He has always run a good operation and is a good employer. It’s important that the facility continues to operate. The tomato industry is not what it used to be. I don’t think a change to medical marijuana is a problem.”

Since the landowner lives on the property, Searle stated he did not see any security problems. Besides, West Edge would have to meet the state’s security requirements.

Any concerns over security at the facility were also quashed by property owner Ralph Thompson who emphasized that though it was a rural area, neighbour kept an eye out for strange vehicles and were armed and ready for intruders. He was in favour of the new operation.

Call explained, “The appellant’s concerns seem to be speculative. It sounds like there’s some competition involved.”

English agreed and said the greenhouse was an appropriate place for this type of medical marijuana facility as it is in an agricultural area.


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