Arizona Lawmakers Target Snowflake Over Medical Marijuana Facility Plans

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Forget plastic grocery bags. The first target in the effort by state lawmakers to tamp down on municipal authority is marijuana.

Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, filed an official complaint Thursday with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office alleging the town of Snowflake violated several state laws in issuing a permit to a medical-marijuana-cultivation facility. Boyer has been among the state’s most vocal critics of marijuana legalization.

This is the first official complaint filed under Senate Bill 1487, which allows any state lawmaker to direct the attorney general to investigate any allegation that a city or town violated state law. If the attorney general finds the community in violation and it is not remedied, the state treasurer could withhold state-shared monies until the issue is resolved. For most communities, state shared revenue makes up about half of their operating budgets.

Snowflake allegations

Boyer alleges Snowflake violated state open-meeting laws, notice requirements for zoning-law changes, zoning-contract regulations, the right of referendum and access to public records during the process of issuing a use permit to Copperstate Farms. Fife Symington IV, the son of the former governor with the same name, is behind the project.

According to a letter from Boyer to the Attorney General’s Office, he alleges that the Snowflake mayor, town manager and members of the council may have violated the state open-meeting law by meeting with Copperstate Farms officials and discussing a deal. He alleges the town failed to provide adequate advanced notice for public hearings regarding the permit. He alleges the town may have violated state law by entering into “quid pro quo arrangement” that involved the farm giving the town up to $800,000 a year in exchange for the permit.

Boyer also alleged the town violated residents’ right to refer the permit issue to the ballot by refusing to approve minutes of the meeting in which the permit was approved. Referendum paperwork requires the minutes be attached.

The allegations mirror allegations made in a lawsuit residents filed against Snowflake and Copperstate Farms in Navajo County Superior Court.

Snowflake Town Manager Brian Richards did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Doug Cole, with Highground Consulting, is working with Copperstate Farms on the project. He said the city is in the process of redoing the permits. The Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to re-hear the permit proposal Thursday night, and the town council is scheduled to re-vote Friday.

“Residents raised some issues, so they’re all being redone,” Cole said.

The Attorney General’s Office has 30 days to investigate Boyer’s complaint. If Snowflake is found to be in violation, it has 30 days to resolve the issue. If the issue is not resolved, the Attorney General’s Office notifies the Treasurer’s Office to withhold state-shared revenue.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Arizona Lawmakers Target Snowflake Over Medical Marijuana Facility Plans
Author: Alia Beard Rau
Contact: 602-444-8000
Photo Credit: David Kadlubowski
Website: The Arizona Republic