Arizona launches retail cannabis months ahead of schedule

Published Jan 30, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Kelly Johnson

Everyone loves a surprise, and Arizona's cannabis enthusiasts are no different. A soft opening of retail cannabis dispensaries was launched this week in Arizona. These soft-openings came to be less than three months after passing adult-use legislation on the November ballot.

Some of the dispensaries that were ready to open last week include:

  • Harvest Health
  • The Mint
  • Curaleaf

The dispensary owners in Arizona must pay 25,000 dollars and submit a set of fingerprints when applying for a recreational cannabis sales license. According to the Arizona Department of Health Science, there have been 86 applications approved. The state's transition to the recreational market for cannabis is a meaningful moment. No longer will people be prosecuted for cannabis infractions when caught with anything less than an ounce of weed.


Approximately 106 tons of cannabis products were sold in Arizona in 2020 to state-registered cannabis patients. Medical marijuana sales are not subject to taxes. However, the recreational cannabis sold by dispensaries is taxable, and it carries a 16 percent excise tax.

Numbers are everything

Over half of the pre-existing cannabis dispensaries in the state of Arizona have been given the nod to start selling cannabis in their dispensaries. Seventy dispensaries now have the opportunity to be among the legal retail cannabis dispensaries in Arizona.

According to the CEO of four Sol Flower cannabis retail locations, this move is historically massive. Arizona is already presenting as one of the most important medical cannabis markets in the country. Seven other dispensaries that have received an adult-use license to sell are not yet operational. There are also 26 licenses that are to be issued to social-equity applicants.


Breaking records

These surprise soft openings have put the Grand Canyon State in the prestigious position of being the region with the fastest turnaround, from passing an adult-use initiative to actually engaging in retail sales. This momentous occasion surpasses Nevada's mark of eight months, which was set back in 2016.

Arizona's Department of Health Services announced that 79 medical cannabis dispensaries had made an application to sell recreational weed. Seventy-three applicants so far have received permission to move forward. The others will be announced in the coming days. An additional 62 remaining medical dispensaries are expected to join the group very soon.

A few states moved forward with the legalization of cannabis in 2016. Arizona, sadly, was the only state with recreational cannabis on the ballot to not meet the approval. The loss was a fraction of one percent, and many Arizona cannabis advocates were heartbroken when they heard the news.

Final words

The ultimate redemption for Arizona came from the 2020 election. The Safe and Smart Act, Proposition 207, was passed by a significant twenty percent margin. Adult cannabis users rejoiced as their prayers for legal cannabis sales were finally set to come true in their state. For those cannabis enthusiasts who like to have a hands-on approach to growing their weed, the act also paved the way for the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants for personal use.

Fewer US banks are willing to work with the cannabis industry


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