Legal Marijuana Sales Begin in Arizona
The legal sale of recreational marijuana and marijuana products officially began on Friday, several years after the state officially legalized the plant through the initiative process. The state joins 14 others in the U.S. which have legal marijuana sales: Around 30 have legal medical marijuana sales.
The state Health Services Department on Friday announced it had approved 86 licenses in nine of the state’s 15 counties under provisions of the marijuana legalization measure passed by voters in November, reports the Associated Press. Most of the licenses went to existing medical marijuana dispensaries that can start selling pot right away.
“It’s an exciting step for those that want to participate in that program,” said Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona’s state health director, on Friday.
According to the AP, under the terms of Proposition 207, people 21 and older can grow their own plants and legally possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana or a smaller quantity of “concentrates” such as hashish. Possession of between 1 ounce and 2.5 ounces (70 grams) is a petty offense carrying a maximum $300 fine.
The initiative faced stiff opposition from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders in the state Legislature, but 60% of the state’s voters in the November election approved it.
The vast majority of the licenses issued Friday were in Maricopa County, the state’s largest county that’s home to Phoenix and its suburbs, notes the AP. Other counties with dispensaries now allowed to sell recreational pot are Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties. Voters in New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana also approved making possession of recreational marijuana legal last November.
Another benefit of legalization: Arizona prosecutors dropped thousands of marijuana possession cases after the measure was approved. Possession in the state technically became legal when the election results were certified on Nov. 30 but there was no authorized way to purchase it without a medical marijuana card.
The Associated Press points out that voters in November dealt another blow to Republicans in control of the state’s power levers when they approved a new tax on high earners to boost education funding, a move that came after years of GOP tax cuts and the underfunding of public schools.