Gilbert Town Council amends codes to address marijuana at residences

Brigette Peterson
Brigette Peterson conducts her first full meeting as Gilbert mayor Jan. 19. (Screen shot from GilbertLive)

Brigette Peterson conducts her first full meeting as Gilbert mayor Jan. 19. (Screen shot from GilbertLive)

Gilbert Town Council passed new building and fire code amendments Jan. 19 related to safety issues associated with residential marijuana growth and extraction facilities.

The amendments come in the wake of November’s passage of Proposition 207 that makes recreational marijuana legal in Arizona. Council voted 6-1 to approve the code amendments with Council Member Laurin Hendrix voting in dissent.

Staff indicated to council in documents that current residential building and fire codes were not adequate to address safety issues surrounding the practice of growing and extracting oil from marijuana, but those issues were adequately addressed in commercial code. It also noted safety hazards involved with the processes and chemicals that are used.

The building code amendments point users to follow commercial code while the fire code amendments limit the amount of chemical storage at a residence.

Hendrix said he had opposed Proposition 207 but acknowledged it is state law and questioned the enforceability of the amendments and whether they could be used to infringe on private property rights.

“If the goal here is to come up with some way to give people liability for doing something that is legal, but we'd rather they don't do it, I guess we can just say that,” Hendrix said. “Maybe that is what we're saying, and that's what we're voting on.”

However, Council Member Aimee Yentes said that while she is sympathetic with Hendrix’s concerns, the code amendments give the town some leverage for enforcement when problems arise with the new marijuana law.

“The regulations on the books aren't usually on the books for the good actors,” she said. “They're on there so you have ways in which to bring bad actors into compliance. I would say any area that the proposition legally left open communities to regulate this activity, I think is something we ought to take full advantage of.”

Mayor Brigette Peterson and Council Member Scott Anderson expressed similar sentiments to Yentes.

CDBG reallocation passes

Council voted unanimously to approve reallocation of $150,000 in Community Development Block Grant money granted to the town through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Council previously had failed to pass the item on a 3-3 vote Dec. 15, with then-Council Member Jared Taylor voicing opposition to wasteful federal spending.

However, Yentes said that was based on a misunderstanding as the town had already accepted the funds and the action now was just on how they would be spent.

Business relief grant update

Yentes reported from the AZCares Act subcommittee, which has directed the town’s use of AZCares Act funding from the state, that the town had awarded just more than $4 million in business relief grants to 234 businesses affected by the pandemic and supported more than 2,800 jobs.

Yentes, who chairs the subcommittee, said the subcommittee considered that a success and said feedback has been used to make some modifications in the grant qualifications going forward.

Under the modifications, businesses with gross revenue up to $15 million now are eligible, up from $5 million, and businesses with a 5% decline in either gross revenues or gross profits are eligible, down from needing to show a 15% decline.

“A lot of our businesses community, specifically in the restaurant industry, have experienced a great deal of supply-chain challenges that have squeezed their profit margins,” Yentes said. “And so even if they're out there doing a booming business and ringing the cash register, they're not making any profit because prices have skyrocketed, but they haven't been able to charge customers more.”
By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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