The apparent award of a state license for a medical marijuana dispensary located less than 10 feet from the playground of a longtime Ahwatukee preschool has created a neighborhood controversy with plenty of bureaucratic mystery.
Leaders of Grace Garden Christian Preschool and neighboring residents and businesses were stunned to learn that the state Department of Health Services granted a dispensary license for a building now housing a Valvoline Express Care oil change garage.
And no one knows who received the license ‒ or why.
“I was in total shock when I found out,” said preschool director Catherine Thomson, who held a meeting last Friday with concerned parents and neighbors to begin strategizing a fight against the dispensary.
The preschool has been a neighborhood institution for 14 years and is only a few hundred feet away from a 600-member church, a thriving strip mall and another preschool. It also is only a block away from another medical marijuana dispensary.
“We are not opposed to medical marijuana,” Thomson stressed. “But if it’s not OK for a dispensary to be located next to a school or a daycare facility, why is it OK for one to be right up against a preschool?”
Thomson is not the only posing that question.
The mystery begins with DHS, where a spokeswoman said dispensary licenses are not public record. She said she could not even confirm that a license had been awarded for that building.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s office also is puzzled.
Rana Lashgari, his chief of staff, told the group that so far no one has applied for a zoning permit to operate a dispensary at that address. She said DiCiccio’s staff was trying to determine who owns the building and why a license was issued.
“We care,” she told the group. “We have someone specifically