US (AZ): Is the state's social equity program doing enough?

When Arizona voters approved adult-use cannabis in 2020, the new law included provisions that aimed to give the opportunity of a lifetime to people most harmed by the War on Drugs: a chance to win a coveted license to operate a dispensary.

Now, the final licenses to sell cannabis in Arizona are set to be given out through the social equity program, which aims to right the wrongs caused by disproportionate policing of cannabis crimes, but some advocates say the reality is that bureaucratic hurdles, corporate greed, and a rapidly consolidating cannabis market will drive those profits directly into the hands of large companies intent on limiting competition and capitalizing on the billions of dollars to be made selling cannabis in Arizona. 

“This is a program that, as currently written, is designed to fail,” attorney Julie Gunnigle said to Arizona Mirror. Gunnigle up until recently worked for Arizona’s Chapter of NORML, an organization that pushes for the reform of marijuana laws across the United States.

Now, as the Phoenix New Times reports, legal action is being taken against the State of Arizona. The accusers, the Greater Phoenix Urban League and Acre 41, feel the state is not doing enough to protect smaller growers from the huge companies taking over the cannabis market. "The new legal complaint argues that the social equity program has failed to meet the standards laid out in Prop 207, the ballot initiative voters passed last year that legalized cannabis and has allowed thousands of Arizonans to expunge prior cannabis charges. Through Prop 207, voters directed the state to create a program that promoted dispensary cannabis ownership by people who were disproportionately impacted by cannabis laws — which, in Arizona, often was poor, Black and Latino communities," the Phoenix New Times writes.

You can read more about Arizona's social equity program at marijuanamoment.net.


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