A company applied for a medical marijuana dispensary certificate. The Arizona Department of Health Services asked the company to show that the proposed dispensary would be at least 500 feet from a school, as required by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”) and its implementing regulations. The company replied with a map showing that the dispensary would be 513.75 feet from the nearest school’s administration building. The Department denied the application because the distance between the property lines of the school and the proposed dispensary was less than 500 feet.
The company sought administrative review. The Department conducted additional research and determined that the distance between the property line of the proposed dispensary and a fence abutting the school’s basketball court was 424 feet. After a hearing, the administrative law judge recommended affirming the denial of the company’s application. The Director adopted the recommendation. The company appealed to the superior court, which affirmed. The company then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which also affirmed.
The company’s main argument on appeal was that the Department arbitrarily expanded the definition of the word “school” in the AMMA by measuring the 500-foot distance requirement from the school’s property line, rather than its buildings. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court determined that the term “school” refers to the entire school property, including any outdoor facilities used for curricular activities (such as basketball courts). The Court also reasoned that the company’s interpretation would allow dispensaries to operate directly adjacent to school grounds, contrary to the AMMA’s goal of preventing schoolchildren from being exposed to marijuana.
Judge Howe authored the opinion of the Court, in which Judges McMurdie and Campbell joined.
Posted by: Josh Bendor