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Arizona just legalized marijuana. Here’s what happens next

Published on November 3, 2020 · Last updated March 11, 2022
Arizona voters approved adult-use marijuana legalization on Nov. 3. Now comes the hard part: implementing the law.

Congratulations, Arizona! 

The Grand Canyon State has legalized recreational cannabis through Proposition 207— also known as the Smart and Safe Act—which passed with 60% of the vote.

The victory is all the sweeter in light of Arizona’s failed attempt to legalize a similar bill in 2016.

Here’s what happens next.

No, not quite yet. 

The exact date that possessing cannabis is legal in Arizona remains unclear. While residents will indisputably be in the clear once the licensed retail program is active, getting busted before then is not entirely out of the question. 

Our advice: if you want to play it safe, get yourself a medical card and sleep easy.

When can I buy it legally?

Probably next April.

Prop 207 requires state officials to establish program regulations by April 5, 2021, at which point adult-use retail licenses must be handed out. They could, however, be handed out sooner.

Current medical dispensaries, as well as a handful of aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs (more on that below), will have through the end of March, 2021, to apply for a recreational license. 

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“Our adult use stores [will be] up and running by 4/20,” Richard told Leafly. 

Election Day stress? Chill with these 5 dank strains

Will there be a marijuana tax?


Adult-use cannabis products will be subject to a 16% excise tax in addition to Arizona’s normal 5.6% sales tax.

So the total tax will be 21.6%.

Cannabis excise tax revenue will support public safety, public health programs, community colleges, and infrastructure projects.

Can my town ban weed stores?

Although cities and counties can opt out of new adult-use dispensaries, they cannot prevent current medical dispensaries from acquiring an adult-use license. So, as long as you live somewhere with a medical marijuana dispensary now, you’ll likely have an adult-use store, too.

Will there be a lot of new rec shops?

It depends on what you mean by “new.”

Most adult-use retail licenses will go to Arizona’s 130 currently operating medical dispensaries. Those dispensaries won’t automatically be able to offer recreational products. They’ll be required to apply for adult-use licenses.

The state will also issue 26 new social equity adult-use retail marijuana licenses, and an additional handful of new licenses in rural counties that are currently home to less than two medical dispensaries.

Once it’s legal, adults 21 or older will be able to possess one ounce of marijuana (with no more than five grams of it being marijuana concentrate).

Possessing between one and 2.5 ounces will be treated as a petty offense, and minors caught with less than one ounce could receive a $100 maximum fine and four hours of drug counseling.

Can I grow marijuana at home?

Yes. Each adult will be allowed to possess and cultivate up to six plants at home.

Will there be an expungement process?

Yes. It starts next summer.

Beginning July 12, 2021, people previously convicted of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, a maximum of six plants, or cannabis paraphernalia, can petition to have their record expunged. 

Prop. 207 has allocated funds—generated through licensing fees and medical card fees—to support community organizations that will in turn aid an estimated 200,000 Arizonans with the expungement process itself.

Unfortunately, yes.

Employers still have the right to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.

Although no employer tests staff members for drinking wine the night before showing up for work, many continue to test for off-the-job cannabis use—and may, by law, fire an employee for private, personal use.

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Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.
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