Arizona Swiftly Launches Adult Use Cannabis Sales

Arizona has just set a cannabis record. 

In November, Arizona voters passed an adult use cannabis legalization initiative. By December, regulators released draft regulations, which were revised earlier this month, as the initiative required regulators to begin accepting business applications by January. Today, the first adult use sales in the state began, as the Arizona Department of Health Services awarded 86 licenses.

This marks the fastest launch of adult use sales following the passage of a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis. That was by design. The initiative ensured that the first adult use licenses would be awarded to existing medical cannabis businesses in the state. Medical cannabis has been legal in Arizona since 2010. 

One of the first companies to sell adult use cannabis on Friday was Harvest Health and Recreation. The Arizona-based multistate operator has the largest cannabis footprint in the state, and it also gave the most money to the adult use legalization campaign. 

Another company that was a top backer of the campaign, Curaleaf—which, like Harvest, is one of the highest valued cannabis companies in the US—also announced it would begin adult use sales on Friday. 

Samuel Richard, the executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, stood in line outside of Harvest’s Scottsdale shop on Friday afternoon to make his first purchase of legal adult use cannabis, and he described the atmosphere as “energetic.”

“It’s just a moment to take a step back and just feel an immense amount of gratitude” for voters in the state, Richard told Cannabis Wire. “It’s a great moment for Arizona. It’s a great moment for the industry across the country.” 

Unlike other adult use cannabis programs that issue separate licenses for, say, cultivation and sales, Arizona allows only for a “marijuana establishment” license, which grants the licensee permission to do everything from cultivation to sale. This is also how licenses in the state’s medical cannabis program are structured. (This is known as vertical integration.) 

Eventually, 26 licenses will go to applicants under the state’s forthcoming Social Equity Ownership Program. But, the Department “does not currently have a timeline for this rulemaking,” according to its website. The initiative also included language for the expungement of some cannabis convictions. 

Today, Arizona residents 21 and older can grow six plants (or 12 per residence) and possess up to an ounce of cannabis. Cannabis sales will have an excise tax rate of 16%.

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