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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.