City aims

Mesa City Council introduced an ordinance last week that would add an explicit prohibition on possessing or consuming marijuana in city parks to Mesa City Code Title 6, Chapter 10, “Public Park Regulations.”

The city believes the added language would clear the way for city park rangers to enforce Mesa’s ban of marijuana on city property.

Under current practice, park rangers call Mesa police officers when they encounter marijuana, Parks Director Andrea Moore said.

The addition to city code on parks adds a section: “No person shall acquire, possess, consume, purchase, sell, cultivate, manufacture, produce, store, transfer, or distribute marijuana or marijuana products in a park.”

Deputy City Manager Candace Cannistraro wrote in a memo to the council last week that the addition to city code on parks was needed to “make it clear to the public, (Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities) personnel, and the courts that marijuana and marijuana product prohibitions in city parks are enforceable by park rangers.”

The month after the passage of Prop 207 in 2020, which legalized marijuana in Arizona for adults 21 and over, City Council prohibited cannabis on “property that is owned and controlled by the city.”

Last week’s memo asserts that park rangers can legally enforce the city’s pot prohibition in parks under the current rules.

But parks officials believe a foible in the language of the 2020 ordinance creates some confusion about whether park rangers are authorized to write tickets for marijuana use.

That’s because the enforcement section of Mesa’s marijuana prohibition ordinance states: “The Mesa Police Department is authorized to enforce the provisions of this Chapter,” and says nothing about park rangers.

In contrast, the city code on prohibited items in city parks explicitly states that police and park rangers can enforce the rules. Adding marijuana to the list of banned items strengthens their claim to enforce the pot ban.

Council introduced the ordinance and set a June 5 hearing date for its adoption.

Moore said that weed in parks is “not a huge issue in terms of high numbers of citations being issued. (The ordinance) is a matter of making it easier to issue citations.”

Asked if this change in the park ordinance to ease marijuana enforcement was part of the city’s new efforts to invite families back to city parks in Mesa’s core, Moore demurred.

“Inviting families and engaging in organized activities at the park is a separate initiative,” she said. The marijuana ordinance “just happened at around the same time.”

Next year’s proposed city budget includes funding for four additional park rangers.

“The park rangers engage with (marijuana) if they come across it no matter what, and like I said, it’s not a high frequency issue,” she said.

Moore added that the city’s efforts to bring families back to parks is off to a good start.

“We’ve now been doing it for two weeks – that Fun ‘n’ Fitness mobile recreation unit at Pioneer Park – and we are getting some positive participation in that. It’s been good to see, and we’re continuing to build that,” she said.

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