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Arizona dispensaries could start recreational marijuana sales by March

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

PHOENIX — Arizonans can expect to see dispensaries begin to sell recreational marijuana as early as March, after the drug was legalized by voters in November.

Technically, the law went into effect the minute Gov. Doug Ducey certified the election results.

However, there is currently nowhere Arizonans can legally buy marijuana as the Department of Health Services must first issue licenses to sell, according to marijuana lawyer Tom Dean.

“Those licenses will be given to all of the existing medical marijuana dispensaries first,” Dean told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Wednesday. “Those licenses will be issued around the end of March. Then, there are an additional 26 social equity licenses that will be issued at some point later in 2021.

“People will be eligible for one of those types of licenses if they are a member of a community that has been disproportionally impacted by the enforcement of marijuana laws in the past. So perhaps certain ethnic minorities or perhaps certain socioeconomic categories. We don’t know what those criteria exactly will be yet.”

In early November, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced it would begin dismissing marijuana possession and paraphernalia charges that wouldn’t be considered offenses now.

Under Proposition 207, anyone 21 or older is allowed to have up to 1 ounce of cannabis.

A 16% tax on its sale will fund community colleges, public safety, public health programs and roads and highways.

Dean warned that it is important to strictly follow the limitations put forth in the law.

“You don’t want to go over that amount because if you go over it enough, you’re going to get kicked back into the criminal code which is pretty harsh as many marijuana consumers out there know,” he said.

There are also restrictions around growing your own cannabis. Six plants per adult are allowed to be grown at home, with a limit of up to 12 plants per household.

All plants must be in a locked room (indoors or outdoors) to prevent access by minors and away from public view.

“Make sure that you’re following those limitations and avoid the temptation to do more than you’re allowed,” Dean advised.

Those who currently hold medical marijuana cards may want to keep them even though the drug is now legal, as the cards offer legal protection that the new law does not.

“If you’re employed by someone who has drug testing, there are no protections in 207. If you test positive for THC at work, you can be fired for that,” Dean said. “If you’re a medical marijuana patient, however, you cannot. There’s very strong protections.”

He added that medical cards also prevent government interference for parent’s custody agreements and visitations with children.

Arizona is one of 15 states that have approved recreational use of marijuana.

The legalization has been predicted to generate upwards of $300 million annually for the state.

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