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Will Tucson's recreational marijuana industry be taken over by corporations?

Will Tucson's recreational marijuana industry be taken over by corporations?
Posted at 5:55 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 07:46:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona wanted to legalize recreational marijuana through a socially equitable lens. That means the owners of the 26 companies allowed to open a recreational dispensary had to be legally, financially, or geographically impacted by former marijuana laws. But the city and local dispensaries say this goal was not met.

“I think what happened initially is that the state put together their rules and regulations without enough due diligence,” said Jean Paul Genet, Partner with GreenMed Inc.

Just the application to receive a social equity license and open a recreational dispensary cost $4,000. As a result, many of the applicants received financial backing from bigger corporations. And there are no rules preventing license holders from selling ownership.

“This program was developed for people who have been depressed socially and if you are going to do that, you have to provide support through the process,” Genet said.

RELATED: Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries: County's Planning Commission agrees to loosen regulations

That’s why the City of Tucson is requiring a public hearing process for dispensary owners before they can build. The goal is to meet the owners of these new dispensaries, and ensure they fit the requirements for social equity. But, this process would take six months.

“A potential applicant who’s considering Tucson would say ‘I’m going to Phoenix or Flfoagstaff because I don’t want to get caught in the lengthy process that the city is considering,’” said Mike Robinette, Executive Director of Arizona Norml.

One marijuana advocacy group called Norml is trying to change that. Norml says Arizona has a small number of dispensaries, creating higher prices for consumers.

“We’re paying $50 to $60 for an eighth of an ounce, where on the eastern slope of Colorado, you can get double of the same quality for $50,” Robinette said.

The City is asking for public input around this process.

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Perla Shaheen is a reporter for KGUN 9. Perla graduated in May 2020 from the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in Political Science. Share your story ideas and important issues with Perla by emailing perla.shaheen@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.