Originally Published: April 13, 2017 6 a.m.
Chino Valley council member Corey Mendoza has said some harsh words about “potheads” and the state’s voters legalizing medical marijuana in 2010.
Last week, Mendoza appeared before the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission requesting a conditional use permit to allow a medical marijuana research and development facility on his property at East Road 4 North.
“I’ve gotten much more educated in the uses of marijuana,” Mendoza told the seven-member commission. “I’ve softened a bit.”
While he still thinks 95 percent of those using marijuana for medicinal purposes are “potheads,” he said 5 percent of others have benefited from its use, and he supports further research.
The 2.71-acre property is currently zoned CH — Heavy Commercial and the site is vacant. West and east of the lot are properties zoned CH; north and south are zoned CL — Light Commercial. The research will take place in an existing building on the southeast portion of the parcel.
“The facility will only be using medical marijuana to conduct their research. It will not be a retail building and therefore will not have the sale or wholesale of medical marijuana. The building will not have any exterior identification noting that facility conducts marijuana research and development inside,” the application summary states.
Town ordinances allow for farming and agriculture, and commercial greenhouses in Light and Heavy Commercial zoning. Mendoza said he learned that medical marijuana grown in greenhouses is used for a “smokable” product, but pharmaceutical grade marijuana is not grown in greenhouses.
Ruth Mayday, director of Development Services, said the town code deals with cultivation and dispensaries, but contains nothing affiliated with medical marijuana research. “You would expect horticultural research in Commercial Light,” she said.
Commissioners agreed to add several stipulations to Mendoza’s application: all non-pharmaceutical portions of the plants will be destroyed on site, the use permit time frame is 10 years (applicant may reapply), and the applicant will abide by equal or greater security as required by state regulations for cultivation.
Mayday also stated that employees are required to have specific identification. Commission Chair Charles Merritt said the research facility does not allow the public to walk in.
The commissioners voted unanimously to recommend to council approval of the use permit with stipulations, and also have the town attorney look over the wording.
When asked following the meeting why he now feels medical marijuana is something he can embrace, Mendoza said he started looking into the research more. Eight months ago the Drug Enforcement Administration eased research restrictions.
Michael O’Connor-Masse, property owner of the first active medical marijuana grow site in Chino Valley, said he was curious about the application, and also confused “because of all the flak I took.”
Following the meeting he said when he was growing tomatoes, he had two employees. There currently are 32 employees connected to the grow site on his property, most of whom live in Chino Valley.
“I didn’t know a councilman would expand the medical marijuana industry. I was shocked,” O’Connor-Masse said.