Apache Junction planning commission seeks names of medical-marijuana business owners

A new medical marijuana business must provide a list of the names of its owners, management company and board of directors before a request for a six-month extension to open will be considered, Apache Junction’s planning commission decided recently.

A medical-marijuana dispensary is planned on the southwest corner of West Apache Trail and South Palo Verde Drive. (Graphic special to the Independent, from the city of Apache Junction)

A public hearing and consideration of a conditional use permit amendment for the approved non-profit medical marijuana dispensary at 1985 W. Apache Trail Suite No. 4 was heard before the Apache Junction Planning and Zoning Commission on July 10.

The commission voted 6-1 to continue the matter to Tuesday, July 24. The meeting begins 7 p.m. in the council chambers, 300 E. Superstition Blvd. Voting yes were Chairwoman Theresa Nesser, Vice Chairman Peter Heck and members Willie Howard, Steve Kridler, Robert Schroeder and Michael Frank. Voting no was Commissioner Michael McGraw.

Owner Palo Verde Plaza LLC and applicant Svaccha LLC, represented by Adam Baugh of Withey Morris PLC, requested to inform the city of new ownership and management entities for the dispensary.

The sole member of Svaccha is Harvest Dispensaries, Cultivations and Production Facilities LLC and the new manager of Svaccha LLC is Paul Nowak. The management company for Svaccha is Randy Taylor Consulting LLC, which is contracting with SSW Investments III LLC to manage the dispensary, Mr. Baugh said in a June 14 letter to Rudy Esquivias, senior planner.

Vice Chairman Heck asked Mr. Baugh at the meeting for a list of names for everyone associated with the Apache Junction business.

“So ultimately, is Paul Novak going to be the guy who’s going to be here and running the facility?” Mr. Heck asked.

“No. Paul Novak is not. He is the manager of the LLC but then they have a management company that comes and operates on a daily basis. Their name for marketing purposes will be known as Nirvana,” Mr. Baugh said.

“Some ownerships have multiple dispensaries. It’s a business-organization tree – like a genealogy chart – and so as they have different dispensaries they form different management groups that manage and so they all feed back into the same tunnel, so to speak,” Mr. Baugh said.

In his motion on the case, Mr. Heck asked for “a detailed breakdown of the organizational chart or the hierarchy of all these organizations with appropriate names of owners or directors of all of the different organizations.”

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Frank said he didn’t like the name change to Nirvana.

“About the name ‘Nirvana.’ To me it seems like blissful, paradise, good-time recreational. It doesn’t strike me as medical-marijuana needs,” Mr. Frank said.

“I think the people who would be going into this facility are far away from nirvana or paradise. It doesn’t sound like a medical facility,” he said.

City Attorney Joel Stern. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Commercial speech under the U.S. Constitution allows it, City Attorney Joel Stern said to the commission.

“What you can require is that it can’t be a leaf. That’s for sure. You definitely can outlaw that,” Mr. Stern said. “But if they pick a name, I think if it’s not obscene; if it doesn’t even relate to medicine, I don’t think you can go down that path because it’s commercial speech.”

Svaccha LLC was the recipient of a dispensary license for the Apache Junction Community Health Analysis Area, which includes the city limits east to Gold Canyon and south to north of Pecos Road.

The planning and zoning commission on Sept. 12, 2017, approved a conditional use permit request for the operation of a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary for applicant Svaccha LLC, to be located at 1985 W. Apache Trail Suite No. 4.

“In particular, condition No. 13 said that should a managing member of the LLC or a majority of the members, directors or officers change, that a CUP amendment was required,” Mr. Esquivias told the commission.

“In other words, when the case was brought forward, there were certain applicants. You met those applicants, you met their representative and they are the ones who got approval to operate the dispensary. The dispensary has not yet opened. Svaccha LLC was sold to a whole different group of folks,” he said.

The new owners are requesting a six-month extension to improve the building and open the dispensary and seeking to increase the floor area of the proposed dispensary by 190 square feet, according to city documents.

“I don’t believe any work has been done to the building; at least we haven’t gotten any permits for work in the building. They’re coming up on their timeframe with the state, which I believe is either September or October, so they’re asking to be allowed six-months extension to March 2019 to be able to complete the improvements to the dispensary,” Mr. Esquivias said.

The initial conditional use permit was for 1,500 square feet of space and the new one is for about 1,7000 square feet, with the increase in floor space internal, within the walls of the existing building, Mr. Esquivias said.

Nirvana will be the second medical-marijuana dispensary in the Apache Junction CHAA. Nature’s Wonder Dispensary is at 260 W. Apache Trail.

The dispensary will not have on-site cultivation of medical marijuana, nor will it manufacture infused products. It is a dispensary open to medical-marijuana card-carrying patients only, according to city records.

“The dispensary will be doing business as Nirvana (Center), which is a well-respected, quality operator who has multiple locations across Arizona, including stores in Phoenix, Oro Valley, Glendale and Prescott Valley. Nirvana has been an Arizona medical marijuana dispensary operator for many years and will continue to operate responsibly and in full compliance with all state and local regulations across their group of Arizona stores,” Mr. Baugh said in the letter to Mr. Esquivias.

The additional six-month time extension is from Sept. 12, 2018, to March 12, 2019, he said.

Svaccha is the Hindu word for clean. It also means clear, crystalline, purity – a clean product, then-co-owner Evan Pieser said in an interview after the Feb. 28, 2017, meeting of the planning and zoning commission.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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