Officials Say Arizona Has Work To Do Before Legalization

Arizona voters passed cannabis legalization. Here’s what’s left to do.
Officials Say Arizona Has Work To Do Before Legalization

Arizona is poised to bring a recreational industry to market thanks to the passing of Proposition 207 this election cycle, but the state still has some work to do before everything falls into place and the new industry is fully formed. 

In order to become official, the Arizona Secretary of State has to certify the new proposition, which is expected to happen this month. Dispensaries, which have been a part of Arizona culture since medical cannabis was legalized in 2010, will each have to seek state approval in order to also become a part of the recreational industry. They won’t be able to apply until January, and it will probably be April when recreational sales launch. 

“I think there’s going to be a lot of very curious people that want to walk into the dispensary because they weren’t able to do that before,” said Raul Molina, chief operations officer at the Mint Dispensary.

Strides Towards Justice

Additionally, many are eager to get the expunging of cannabis records underway. Proposition 207 also allows for the expungement of criminal records, and Jared Keenan, attorney at American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, feels that while this won’t entirely level the playing field for people of color disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, but it will definitely help those who have been harmed. 

“It will lower the number of non-white people being arrested for marijuana,” he said, “but those that are concerned with racial disparities and arrest rates and conviction rates need to continue working to make sure that we address those problems. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

While the new industry is definitely exciting, it’s clear that it’s not going to happen immediately, and that a lot of work goes into building a legal cannabis industry.  

“You don’t just build a whole ecosystem of industry overnight because a law passes,” said Smoke Wallin, chief executive of Vertical Wellness, a CBD company in the state. “It slows things down in terms of how quickly you see stores opening up.” 

However, the fact that existing medical cannabis dispensaries get first dibs is heartening to many, as it means that those businesses will be able to break ground and make a name for themselves first. New dispensaries will have to get clearance to open and choose cities and areas that allow them, and then they’ll be second in line to receive licenses. 

Beginning January 19 and ending March 9, medical dispensaries can apply for a recreational adult use license. Then, the next step is for the Arizona Department of Health Services to go through and approve all licenses. 

“Clearly, it is a tremendous opportunity for the state,” Wallin said regarding the new industry in the state and the opportunities it can bring. 

Arizona may not get a new, fully blooming, legal cannabis industry overnight, but they will in fact get an industry that is intentional, with a focus on equity for those already in the industry and those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

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