Cannabis is officially a billion dollar business in the state of Arizona.
Grand Canyon state voters passed a measure in the 2020 vote that made recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 and older. Medical cannabis has been legal in the state since 2010.
That made 2021 the first year both markets were open for business, and the results have been lucrative for Arizona.
According to the state Treasury Department, medical and recreational cannabis sales combined generated more than $1.23 billion in revenue last year.
“Rarely does an industry generate more than $1.2 billion in revenue in its first year. This number shows that legalizing cannabis is something that Arizonans strongly believe in and will bring many benefits to the state’s economy,” said Samuel Richard, the executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association (ADA), as quoted by azfamily.com.
The Treasury Department provided a detailed breakdown of sales data showing that adult recreational cannabis brought in $528,001,278 in revenue, while medicinal cannabis brought in $703,803,194.
According to the numbers, November brought in $60,299,191 in adult sales, making it the busiest month for recreational cannabis sales. It was also the only month of the year when recreational sales exceeded $60 million.
April was the top month for medicinal cannabis with $72,944,477 in sales. Full sales figures for December were not provided.
In addition, the state received $196,447,570 in taxes on the combined sales last year, and that does not include sales in December.
According to the Arizona Department of Treasury, “The state has a transaction privilege tax rate (TPT) and an excise tax (16 percent) on retail sales” of adult recreational cannabis.
In 2020, 60 percent of Arizona voters approved Proposition 207, a ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana use in the state. (Arizona was one of four states this year where voters voted to approve legalization measures, joining Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey in ending prohibition.)
In August, as part of the Prop 207 commitment to “encourage the ownership and operation of marijuana facilities and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws,” Arizona launched a program for social justice for prospective cannabis dispensary owners.
Under the program, the state Department of Health will award 26 pharmacy licenses to applicants from communities hardest hit by anti-drug policies.
“The Social Equity Ownership Program is designed to encourage the ownership and operation of licensed marijuana facilities by individuals in communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws,” the Department of Health said. “Social equity license holders must comply with all laws and regulations governing adult-use marijuana facility licenses, including obtaining an operating license before opening their retail location. Additionally, social justice license holders are required to develop and implement policies to document how the marijuana establishment is providing benefit to one or more communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.”
But even those efforts came under scrutiny when a group of female investors filed a lawsuit against the program in November. The plaintiffs, two organizations known as the Greater Phoenix Urban League and Acre 41, allege that the program’s rules are inconsistent with the goals of Prop 207.
The defendants in the lawsuit are the state of Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey, the state Department of Health and Human Services and Don Herrington, Director of the Department of Health.