Where are the pot farms in Camp Verde?

Lawyers reach compromise between privacy and public's right to know

Murray Lichty gives staff and council his concerns, and a bumper sticker proclaiming the town “is going to pot,” during Call to Public Wednesday night. (Photo by Tom Tracey)

Murray Lichty gives staff and council his concerns, and a bumper sticker proclaiming the town “is going to pot,” during Call to Public Wednesday night. (Photo by Tom Tracey)

CAMP VERDE - During the June 1 Camp Verde Town Council meeting, the big question filling all available seats was, "Where are marijuana growing facilities located in Camp Verde?"

"We are becoming aware of the concern within the community for the need -- as the paper calls it -- secrecy, and what I view -- and I read the statute -- as privacy," said Mayor Charlie German.

The council was not specifically aware of names and addresses of medical marijuana growing facilities in Camp Verde, as it is not a business required to come before council for approval. However, when an application for an Agricultural Facility described by a Building and Code Enforcement Official Robert Foreman as "bigger than NAH" arose during an April 22 budget work session, Council Member Carol German queried staff as to the nature and location of the business. (The meeting video is unavailable on the town website due to technical difficulties, said Town Manager Russ Martin).

Attorney's argument

Town Attorney Bill Sims said via telephone that his interpretation of DPH privacy law protects medical marijuana dispensary patients as well as the applications involved, including grow facilities. He also said three exceptions to a public records release include an individual's private information, if it's in the best interest of the government not to and if it is confirmed as private by statute. Sims believes these state-level exceptions apply at the town level, as well.

When Mayor German inquired about a town's power to prohibit medical marijuana growing facilities, Sims said "Once DPH has approved it, it's very difficult to restrict it."

Meanwhile, Sims said in his conversation with the attorney representing The Verde Independent and Camp Verde Bugle that the newspaper attorney "was highly irritated" that the locations of existing facilities had not been released to the public.

A compromise was reached by the attorney for the town, the attorney for one grower and the attorney for the newspaper.

"A compromise was reached. Confidentially is to be maintained during construction. Once up and running, their location will be released," said Sims.

Privacy argument

Council members Jessie Jones-Murdock and Brad Gordon were among those vocal in their support of protecting the address of the incoming marijuana facilities.

"I agree with our lawyer and the advice he has given us ... We have property owners willing to sell to these facilities and we have builders ready to build these facilities. I support the production of buildings and infrastructure," said Murdock.

Gordon said no secrecy was intended by town government or staff.

"In 2008, that's when we dealt where these things can go," said Gordon. "Only three things that a business in this town has to come to town council for: Liquor license, zoning change and special use permit. Pet shops did not, jewelry stores did not, gun shops did not. Did we keep them secret? No."

Right-to-know argument

Council member Carol German addressed concerns by the mayor and town manager as to the haste in adding the facility to the council agenda.

"I'm the culprit. I had this put on the agenda," said Carol German. "I just think it's a good idea to have this information out to the public so they can understand what is happening. I personally don't see anything wrong with releasing the location."

During Call to Public, citizen Murray Lichty made his thoughts known, as well. "If you look in the internet and type dispensaries and grow facilities in Yavapai County, you see all kinds of names, addresses and phone numbers," he said.

Lichty also took the position that the DPH statute applies to dispensaries, not grow facilities

In regard to the town attorney requesting release of the addresses of existing medical marijuana facilities in Camp Verde, Martin said, "We are trying to identify them and will make those available."

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