Lottery

The 43 balls representing applications for a marijuana dispensary in Santa Cruz County are presented prior to being put into the bingo blower during the Arizona Depatment of Health Services license lottery on Monday.

The Arizona Department of Health Services used a random lottery-style selection on Monday afternoon to choose the winners of two available licenses to operate retail marijuana establishments in Santa Cruz County.

When the white balls with the numbers 35 and 25 were picked out of the bingo blower, two applicants – one with a Tubac address and the other with a Kino Springs parcel number – were the winners among a pool of 43 applications.

That meant that Tucson-based business owner Aari Ruben, who had applied through his company Cactus Bloom Facilities Management LLC for the Tubac location, could move forward with his plans to open a recreational marijuana dispensary in the local area.

But information regarding the ownership and the exact location for the second local licensee, listed as MK Associates LLC, was much more vague. Instead of a street address, the state listed only a parcel number and a Nogales zip code for the company.

“Property located in Kino Springs area is a vacant lot and does not have an address yet,” Roberto Liquidano, the county’s lead planning and zoning technician, wrote in an email.

“Both properties are zoned B-2 (general business) and do not require a conditional use permit to operate a marijuana dispensary,” he added.

The NI attempted to contact the applicant representing MK Associates, but did not receive a response in time for press deadline on Thursday.

A dispensary license also allows the holder to operate a marijuana farm and marijuana processing facility. 

Ruben, who said he grew up in the Sonoita area, currently runs a marijuana dispensary and cultivating site known as Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center, located in southeast Tucson. The dispensary in Santa Cruz County would be his second marijuana-related business.

“I chose that area because of my familiarity with the community, and also the fact that there were no dispensaries in Santa Cruz County,” Ruben said when reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon. “We look forward to filling that gap by providing safe, legal access to marijuana and marijuana-related products and supplies to the local community.”

He added that he had submitted two separate applications for Santa Cruz County in Monday’s drawing. His second application, which was ultimately not selected, listed a location on the western end of Patagonia.

And while Ruben’s application for 2904 E. Frontage Rd. in Tubac was the one randomly chosen by state officials on Monday, he is not limited to staying in that location. Instead, state law allows him to open up shop anywhere within Santa Cruz County that the local jurisdiction will allow.

Ruben said he considered opening up shop in Tubac since it’s an area where he could provide additional services to the tourists that frequent the artist community. Still, he said, he is somewhat partial to the Patagonia area given his ties to Eastern Santa Cruz County and said the area is currently underserved.

“We’re going to open where it makes more sense operationally, and where we find a receptive local government and a receptive community,” he said. “Whatever the community we find ourselves in, we’ll try to minimize the impact on our neighbors or neighboring businesses and be an asset to the community.”

Ruben added that he would have more clarity regarding the exact location of his business within the next month. Wherever he decides to open up shop, he said, he expects to hire up to 30 people for a small dispensary operation.

Ruben added that the community can expect his marijuana establishment to open its doors by the end of this year.

“We look forward to being a good neighbor,” he said. “We’re not here to sell marijuana to their children. We have plenty of customers who are of age and who are appropriate to be using our products.”

Arizona voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older via ballot measure last November. Monday’s drawing was meant to award dispensary licenses for rural counties that currently have fewer than two dispensaries operating.

Santa Cruz County currently has none. And while the county government and Town of Patagonia have adopted ordinances to regulate adult-use marijuana dispensaries, the mayor and council of Nogales voted unanimously to ban them from city limits.

According to the Arizona Republic, applicants paid a nonrefundable fee of $25,000 for each ball entered in Monday’s lottery, had to show they had $500,000 of capital available, and list a proposed location where they would open their business.

The winners now have 18 months to open their dispensary.

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