/Recreational marijuana sales kick off in Arizona – The Arizona Republic

Recreational marijuana sales kick off in Arizona – The Arizona Republic

With the passage of Proposition 207, Harvest Health and Recreation Inc. will transition into the sale of recreational cannabis.

Recreational marijuana sales have started in Arizona, with many of the state’s medical-marijuana dispensaries getting the OK on Friday to open sales to anyone 21 or older.

A Harvest Health and Recreation dispensary in Scottsdale got approval at about noon. The staff quickly broke out signs showing where recreational customers would check in, separating them from medical customers.

Public sales of marijuana, vape pens and edible products such as gummies and candies follow the passage of Proposition 207 in November, making it legal for adults to possess marijuana.

The ballot measure also allows Arizona’s 123 existing medical dispensaries to apply to the Department of Health Services to sell recreational marijuana to adults.

Soon after Harvest workers at the Scottsdale location got the official approval for recreational sales from the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state department released a list of dozens of dispensary operators that also were approved for recreational sales.

At about 12:15 p.m., a Scottsdale man named Chuck walked into the Harvest dispensary near the Scottsdale Airport and asked if recreational sales were yet allowed. An excited staff told him they were, and after showing his identification and checking in, he perused the shop without a line.

He chose a vape pen with “Tropic Thunder and “Skunk #1” marijuana strain cartridges, and a pre-rolled “Peanut Butter Breath” joint. After taxes, he paid $121.

“I was just driving by and asking if they were open yet,” he said, not realizing he was among the first people in the state to make a legal, recreational purchase.

Shop workers cheered as his transaction rang through.

Meanwhile, dispensaries across the state continued to check their application status with the Health Department and turn their shops over for recreational sales. Many expect long lines over the coming days.

Harvest, a Tempe company, has 15 medical dispensaries in Arizona. Company executives filed their application to open for recreational sales in the state early Tuesday morning, the first day medical dispensaries could file such applications, CEO Steve White said.

It cost dispensaries $25,000 to apply to move into recreational sales.

So long as the short applications were complete and the dispensary was in good standing with the state, meaning no outstanding violations of medical-marijuana rules, the applications were expected to receive approval.

Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott said Friday that the department had received 79 applications. Of those, 73 were approved and six were still under review.

Arizona marijuana sales grew 27% in 2020

Some dispensaries in the state are still waiting to file their applications because they are not yet prepared to offer recreational sales, which are expected to bring substantially more traffic to their stores.

But more savvy operators pounced on the chance to be among the first to tap into the recreational market.

Arizona dispensaries sold about 106 tons of marijuana and marijuana products such as edibles last year while only being allowed to sell to people with a medical-marijuana card. That figure has grown steadily since those sales began in 2012.

The 2020 sales were about a 27% increase over the 83 tons of marijuana and marijuana products sold in 2019.

Arizona has more than 295,000 residents with cards that allow them to purchase medical marijuana. Those patients still can purchase from facilities that offer recreational sales, and they can purchase more than the general public. The possession limit for recreational marijuana is 1 ounce while medical patients can purchase as much as 2.5 ounces every two weeks.

Medical patients also can purchase edible products with higher potency than the 10 milligrams of THC allowed per serving for recreational gummies and other foods. And they avoid a 16% excise tax that is placed on recreational sales.

More job opportunities anticipated

The expanding market should benefit the more than 9,000 people working in Arizona dispensaries.

Employees at dispensaries, called dispensary agents, are registered with the state, and must apply for a new “facility agent” card from the state to work in a shop that sells recreational marijuana.

Tuesday was also the first day employees could apply for their new cards to work in recreational facilities. Employees can work at a recreational facility so long as they have applied for the facility agent card, even if the Health Department hasn’t approved or rejected them yet.

White said Harvest asked hundreds of employees to come in to work 90 minutes early Tuesday to help them file those applications.

More job opportunities at dispensaries are expected because of Proposition 207, not just because of increased demand, but because more dispensaries are on their way.

In addition to seven in the state that are licensed but not yet operating, Proposition 207 also allows for new dispensaries in rural counties with fewer than two operating today, and another 26 shops that will be allowed under a “social equity” program aimed at helping people who have been harmed by historical marijuana prohibitions.

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.

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