Arizona DOH releases applicant eligibility criteria for new adult-use cannabis retail permits

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Arizona regulators have finalized a set of rules specifying applicant criteria for the 26 social equity licenses available under the state’s adult-use cannabis program.

The updated rules include language that prohibits all cannabis social equity license applicants in Arizona from getting involved in any other agreement to sell or transfer licenses to operators who don’t meet the eligibility requirements.

The final rules were officially issued on October 13 by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). A PDF document stamped by the Secretary of State confirmed the rule change. 

Applications for cannabis social equity licenses in Arizona will be accepted in the first two weeks of December, before the lucky few are chosen during a random drawing that will be held in early 2022.

The state’s adult-use cannabis measure was approved by voters in November 2020. It stipulates that Arizona must only issue licenses among applicants “from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous [cannabis] laws.”

Cannabis social equity license applicants in Arizona must live in one of 87 zip codes 

To be in with a fighting chance of obtaining a cannabis social equity license in Arizona, all applicants must be able to prove that they live in one of 87 zip codes. It is essential that applicants have maintained residency in the below-mentioned zip codes all of which are deemed to have been unfairly impacted by the failed war on drugs for no less than three of the past five years. 

The zip codes released by ADHS seem to focus exclusively on or close to Native American reservations. A list of communities identified by the ADHS as disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous Arizona cannabis laws can be found here. They include 85006 (Phoenix), 85321 (Ajo), 85930 (Hawley Lake), 86556 (Tsaile) and 86035 (Leupp).

Other requirements for cannabis social equity license applicants in Arizona 

Aside from the zip code requirement, Arizona’s licensing process for social equity applicants also considers household income criteria and previous cannabis convictions (if any) held by the applicant and/or family member(s)  Although the state has approximately 500 zip codes, the majority are merely for post office boxes.

“The methodology to identify communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous Arizona [cannabis] laws included a thorough review and analysis of a variety of data sources, including research and analyses of criminal justice and socioeconomic data,” ADHS spokesman Tom Herrmann told reporters. “The identified ZIP codes include communities disproportionately impacted by incarcerations for [cannabis] crimes in combination with social service program indicators.”