On November 3, 2020, voters in Arizona approved a ballot measure that made recreational marijuana legal on November 30, 2020. The measure, known as Proposition 207 (The Smart and Safe Arizona Act) passed by a 60% margin, allowing adults age 21 or older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow six plants at home. The proposition establishes a legal recreational marijuana market expected to generate over $150 million annually in tax revenue. That revenue has been earmarked for public health, safety and education.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2012. Despite challenges from the state’s attorney general, medical marijuana in Arizona cleared all hurdles and the first dispensaries opened for business in December 2012. Proposition 207 expands the legalization effort and is on course to open recreational dispensaries in the coming months. Industry insiders predict that the first recreational shops could be open as early as April 2021. Current medical marijuana dispensaries are slated to get the first crack at recreational licenses.
Arizona Prosecutors Dropping Marijuana-Related Charges
In perhaps a bid to avoid lengthy appeals and legislation, Arizona prosecutors are dropping many pending marijuana-related charges. Prosecutors anticipate that once Proposition 207 goes into effect, those currently facing marijuana-based charges could petition the court to have their cases dismissed.
The vote to legalize recreational marijuana makes clear how Arizonians now view marijuana. The continued pursuit of criminal charges for possession seems to run counter to the will of the people. Notably, Arizona has also set aside a number of recreational licenses for individuals who are disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.
Tax Revenue To Benefit Community Colleges
Much like the other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Arizona is set to use marijuana tax revenue to fund socially beneficial institutions. With a 16% excise tax on recreational marijuana, analysts predict that the combined revenue of all marijuana sales will bring in roughly $250 million in tax revenue to Arizona on an annual basis. The funds that are not used to regulate the new recreational program will go to the struggling community colleges throughout the state. Additional funds will be used for law enforcement, state highways, and other criminal justice initiatives.