Arizona legalizes marijuana

On Nov. 3, voters in the state of Arizona approved Proposition 207 by more than 20 percentage points, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults.

Possession and use by individuals became legal as of the certification of Arizona’s ballots by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey just after 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, meaning that people in the state are free to own, transport, smoke, vape, drink and eat mari­juana, provided they are over the age of 21, though they are still forbidden from selling it, or smoking it in public places.

Arizonans are permitted to grow up to six plants for private consumption, though they must limit cultivation to an “enclosed area on the grounds of the residence equipped with a lock or other security divide that prevents access by minors,” according to the text of the amendment passed by voters.

Purchasing marijuana, however, remains more complicated, with the regulations regarding marijuana licensing for dispensaries and testing facilities being left to the Arizona Department of Health Services, beginning after the certification. Applications for licenses will begin on Jan. 19, 2021, and will be issued no later than 60 days afterward, meaning that recreational dispensaries should begin to operate by late March.

Under the amendment passed by

voters, “the department may not issue more than one marijuana establishment for every 10 pharmacies … that operate within the state,” though the amendment allows for up to two additional dispensary licenses in counties that do not have any medical dispensaries. This limits the total number of licenses to approximately 156 throughout the state, notwithstanding those potential extra licenses [which would not apply to Yavapai County, which currently has several medicinal dispensaries].

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With about 120 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the state, the number of new recreational dispensaries allowed under the new law will be limited, with the expectation that existing medicinal dispensaries will be the main recipients of the new recre­ational licenses.

Arizona law does not allow the state to disclose the number of licensees.

The development of marijuana dispensaries in the Verde Valley will face additional challenges due to the patchwork of local regulations passed by municipal governments in advance of and since the passage of Proposition 207.

■ Camp Verde has banned recreational dispensaries outright.

■ Cottonwood has limited recreational sales to busi­nesses also licensed for medicinal marijuana.

■ Clarkdale has limited the zoning rules for recreational facilities but not limited the number of dispensaries.

■ Sedona’s city council discussed the possibility of banning recreational sales last week but did not yet make a decision and could face a lawsuit.

In the Verde Valley, there are currently two medical dispensaries, Harvest in Cottonwood, and Bloom in Sedona. With the votes now certified and local regula­tions not yet determined, Harvest declined to confirm whether the company intends to secure a recreational license at their Cottonwood location, though several employees suggested interest.

Edward Judice, owner of Bloom, told the Sedona City Council at the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, that the dispensary hopes to apply for recre­ational use and argued against banning it in the city limits.

“This is a very important and valuable property right that we have been given through Proposition 207,” Judice said. “We have a very small window to apply. If we do not apply by the March 9 deadline, we lose that right.”

None of the four major municipalities in the Verde Valley have received applications for new businesses selling recreational marijuana, according to the commu­nity development offices of the various cities and towns.

Head shops in the Verde Valley do not expect that the addition of recreational sales will drastically change their business.

“I don’t see a lot of changes for us, because of the way Prop 207 was written,“ said Dan Dinsmore, a clerk at Smoke N Thingz in Cottonwood, though he stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the store or its owners. Dinsmore expected that if anything changed, it would be the result of tourists seeking to buy marijuana while visiting the region. “I don’t think it changes much in terms of residents. The people who will use cannabis already use cannabis.”

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