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Arizona Voters Will Likely See Marijuana Legalization on November Ballot

by Sarah Cawthon June 11, 2020

The Smart and Safe Arizona ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older has amassed over 400,000 signatures, far surpassing the 237,645 signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot well ahead of the July 2 deadline. While signatures still need to be verified by the state, voters are likely to see the issue on the November ballot.

“We’re confident that we’re over the number that we need,” said Campaign Manager Stacy Pearson, adding that while the state only verifies signatures after they’re submitted, internal validation by the campaign signals that they’re well ahead of where they need to be to qualify the measure. 

shutterstock_1230948688In 2016, a citizen-initiated measure known as Proposition 205 appeared on the ballot. It would have legalized marijuana under state law. Voters rejected the ballot initiative, with 51.3 percent opposed. The failure was due, in part, to disagreements about the wording of the initiative by industry professionals.

According to an article written by Item 9 Labs, the campaign is being spearheaded by Strategies 360, the PR firm who ran Alaska’s 2014 effort to legalize —  the only other successful marijuana legalization campaign in a red state.

The Safe and Smart Act has the support of the Arizona Dispensaries Association (ADA) in partnership with the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) as well as Arizona NORML, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and the Drug Policy Alliance, and according to media sources, raised roughly $2.7 million by early 2020 with contributions from dispensaries like Harvest and Curaleaf.

A new poll is also suggesting that a majority of Arizonans want to be able to legally buy, use and grow cannabis in their home state with 65 percent, plus or minus the poll's margin of error of 4.9 percent, of Arizonans stating they would vote for the Smart and Safe Arizona Act if it is placed on the November ballot.

That's substantially higher than 2016's failed effort, Prop 205, ever polled.

The initiative includes many of the same components as Prop 205 with some adjustments added by industry professionals in Arizona. It would allow Arizona residents 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, up to five grams in the form of marijuana concentrate and it would also permit each adult to grow up to six marijuana plants at their home, with no more than 12 plants total in a household.

The initiative would also place an excise tax of 16 percent on marijuana purchases, and would distribute the earnings to state agencies, community colleges, police departments, and to prevent substance abuse and help those disproportionately harmed by Arizona’s long history of anti-marijuana legislation.

The new initiative would also set policies in motion for retroactive marijuana decriminalization. Anyone convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes can petition for the expungement of their criminal record starting on July 12, 2021.

As the law currently stands in Arizona, possession of even a trace amount of marijuana without a medical card is considered a felony. 

The initiative gives Arizona’s Department of Health Services jurisdiction over the recreational industry and would determine matters such as marijuana potency.

Recreational Marijuana Business Licensing Details
The Smart and Safe Act would initially cap the number of dispensaries at 150 statewide with existing medical marijuana dispensary owners having first choice to expand into the recreational market.

Additionally, once the Department adopts final rules to implement a social equity ownership program, they will issue 26 additional marijuana establishment licenses to social equity applicants who have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition.

Under the initiative, the Department is only able to issue one marijuana establishment license for every ten pharmacies within the state, and to no more than two marijuana establishments per county that contains one registered non-profit medical marijuana dispensary. Any license issued shall be for a fixed county and may not be relocated outside of that county.

The Department will begin accepting applications for marijuana establishments from early applicants — meaning existing medical marijuana establishments or an entity seeking to operate a marijuana establishment in a county with fewer than 2 nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries — beginning January 19, 2021 through March 9, 2021. The Department will issue licenses to winning applicants within 60 days of receiving applications.

The Department will then create a notice regarding available licenses, and issue the remaining marijuana establishment applications and licenses to new entrants interested in joining the cannabis in Arizona thereafter.

Between January 1, 2023, and January 1, 2025, the Department will craft guidelines to regulate delivery by marijuana establishments.

It is not yet clear when recreational dispensaries would become operational and open to adults in Arizona if the initiative is to pass. The date is contingent on how long DHS will take to write the rules.

“It could be as soon as January 1, 2021, or as late as March,” said Sam Richard, executive director of the ADA. “Definitely by 4/20 of 2021, that adult-use market will be up and running.”

Interested In Applying For Arizona Marijuana Business Opportunities? DT AZ Guide

With the almost certain possibility of legalization landing on the November ballot, this is the perfect time to begin preparing for future marijuana business opportunities in Arizona. If recreational marijuana is placed on the ballot and legalized by voters in November, the state will hold an application process to license marijuana businesses. 

Our customized Arizona Application Guide and Checklist contains a roughly 40-page, detailed summary and checklist including all action items you will need to complete prior to submitting your application. It also includes our team's research of which geographical areas we believe will receive priority licensing in the state.  

Get the Application Guide