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Maricopa County sued by medical marijuana dispensary applicant

PHOENIX - A company is suing Maricopa county for refusing to act on its request for a license.

The White Mountain Health Center wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in an unincorporated part of Maricopa County in Sun City that requires a county zoning approval. The center said the county is stalling approving its application in order to prevent it from seeking a state operating license.

"Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has taken the position that any sort of zoning ordinance approval, or stating that there is a zoning ordinance applicable, is in violation of the Federal Controlled Substance Act and, as such, he won't do it," said attorney Ryan Hurley.

Montgomery advised the County Board of Supervisors not to get involved in the medical marijuana program. He felt that approving a marijuana dispensary on county land could make county employees accomplices to a federal crime because marijuana is not an approved drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Montgomery, the Arizona Department Of Health Services, and DHS Director Will Humble are named as co-defendents in the lawsuit.

The center said the Medical Marijuana Act approved by Arizona voters allows cities to impose "reasonable" zoning restrictions for dispensaries.

Hurley said that Maricopa County could see more lawsuits in the future.

"Some cities and counties have passed zoning restrictions that are overly restrictive or very difficult to meet," he said. "In which case, a lot of applicants are unable to find a location that meets the requirements are will be approved to make an application."

Hurley said it's difficult to say whether this lawsuit, or any others like it, will be successful in court.

Hurley is an expert on the medical marijuana law, but is not involved in this case and not representing either side.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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