Following the passage of Arizona’s adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on Election Day, the state’s industry stakeholders are preparing for a spring rollout of the state’s recreational market, which must launch by April under state law.
The state’s 130 licensed medical cannabis operators are all eligible for adult-use licenses, and the Arizona Department of Health Services, which currently oversees the medical cannabis market and will be responsible for regulating the adult-use industry, will issue an additional 26 licenses to social equity applicants.
“The initiative was written in a really good way to require the government to roll it out in an expedited manner,” Demitri Downing, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association (MITA), tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. “Between January and March, the state will be designing the program, and they’re required to have everything up and running and rolled out by April 5. … Arizona will be full adult-use by 4/20 of next year.”
Arizona’s Voter Protection Act bars the state legislature from changing the voter-approved initiative, Downing adds, and existing medical cannabis businesses will be able to transition to adult-use operations in their current facilities.
While local municipalities do have the right to ban adult-use sales within their jurisdictions, Downing says local moratoriums only apply to the 26 new licenses earmarked for social equity applicants.
“It’s kind of a silly notion because there are only going to be 26 more out there to be placed in different jurisdictions,” he says. “Any city that does ban adult-use dispensaries—it’s kind of a meaningless, symbolic act at best.”
The initiative not only legalizes the sale, possession and consumption of cannabis for adult use, adds Pankaj Talwar, CEO of medical cannabis operator Copperstate Farms, but it also includes an expungement provision that will clear the past convictions of anyone who