July 29, 2021
By Robert Gay and Marion Vendituoli

Despite opposition by some residents, the Patagonia Town Council approved a special use license for
a recreational marijuana dispensary on July 14. Aari Ruben, of Tucson, is planning to open the dispensary in the former Cose Buene Restaurant building at 436 W. Naugle Ave.

Earlier that evening, the Planning and Zoning (P & D) committee had recommended the approval of the license. At the P & D hearing, questions were brought up about parking, proximity of the facility to Richardson and Doc Mock Parks, availability of potentially disruptive drugs to underage kids, attraction of criminal elements, odor, security and flow of clientele from out of town. Tempest Smith read summaries of studies on the relationship of marijuana use and social-psychological problems among young users, such as suicidal tendencies. Samantha Carlson presented a petition of opposition by Patagonia residents, having about 70 signatures. Ruben stressed that there would be no consumption of products on the premises, and education of buyers about the need to keep his company’s products out of the hands of youth.

His use permit application was recommended by the Committee to the Town Council for adoption, with added provisions that there be full compliance with all applicable regulations by state, county and town, with annual review of the license, and that revocation of the license could occur if there were violations, or the Town considered the operation deleterious to residents.

Ruben, who owns Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center in Tucson, describes himself as a “Medical practice manager and cannabis entrepreneur.” He won the right to open a recreational marijuana operation in a state lottery held last April and hopes to open his Patagonia store, which he plans to name Re-Leaf, in the fall. He had been looking at Tubac as a possible site but was not able to secure property there. He chose Patagonia, he said in a recent interview, because local ordinances were more favorable than in Nogales or in unincorporated parts of Santa Cruz County, and because of the availability of suitable property. “We went where we were more welcomed,” he said.

Getting a special use permit is the first step for getting approval to operate a dispensary from the AZ State Health Dept., which sets standards for security, administrative policies, inventory control and sanitation and cleanliness, Rubin noted.

He opened his first medical marijuana dispensary in Tucson in 2013 and added recreational marijuana sales this past January after the passage of Prop. 207 made recreational marijuana use legal in Arizona. He also operates a cultivation site in Tucson, produces edible products and sells wholesale to other stores.

He expects to employ 20 people at the Patagonia site, and hopes to train and hire approximately 12 local people. The hours will 8a.m. – 8p.m., seven days a week.

500 customers a day visit his Tucson store. In Patagonia he expects less traffic. “If we had 80 – 100 customers a day, I would be happy,” he said. The permit allows the business to operate a cultivation and production site, but he does not plan on doing this on a large scale in Patagonia. Because the new law in Arizona permits individuals to own up to six plants, with certain restrictions, he has plans to sell some plants at the store.