Pot dispensary too close to church, neighbors say

Pot dispensary too close to church, neighbors say

By Simone Del Rosario. CREATED Aug 16, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson's newest pot dispensary, at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, is only 500 feet away from the historic First Baptist Church. 

Residents said the location of The Downtown Dispensary breaks city ordinance rules; a dispensary needs to be 1,000 feet away from an active church. 

"The biggest concern is that the City of Tucson is actually following its own ordinance," said Chris Gans, West University Neighborhood Association president.

The real question is whether the First Baptist Church was active when The Downtown Dispensary filed for its license. 

Chris Gans said yes: "The baptist church seems to have been continuously used by a variety of religious groups over the years."

But the city said no: "There was a 'for sale' sign outside of it; they looked inside and it was vacant and no one responded to phone calls," said City Councilman Steve Kozachik. "All indications were that it's just a vacant building that had formerly been used as a church."

After the fact, the University City Church moved in, but Kozachik said the dispensary stays.

"We can't apply the ordinance on a retroactive basis; it wouldn't be fair to any of the businesses downtown, whether it's a dispensary or a bar or a retail outlet. So it's kind of who crossed the finish line first."

With pot dispensaries popping up all over Tucson, some business owners say the controversy is inevitable.

"With any business, you're going to have some pushback; this business does attract a bit more controversy than others," said Downtown Dispensary owner Mohit Asnani.

Even with the tension, Asnani is moving forward with this location; his fifth dispensary in Arizona. It will open Tuesday at 10 a.m.