US (AZ): Zoning problems plague cannabis social equity program

When she was in high school, Arianna Muñoz was charged with possession of narcotics because she was carrying a vape cartridge and a gram of wax concentrate. Despite being a medical cannabis cardholder in 2019, once Muñoz set foot outside a dispensary, she was illegally in possession of narcotics. “That’s the way the laws were written,” said Muñoz, who hired a lawyer, wore an ankle monitor, and served probation for more than two years.

Muñoz’s story is like countless others from people who were hurt by the war on drugs. As a result, she is also one of some 1,500 applicants who qualified and filed for the last 26 social equity adult-use dispensary licenses in Arizona, due to be issued in a random drawing by the Arizona Department of Health Services on Friday.

“I wake up and the first thing I do is check the AZ DHS website to see if any updates are coming out because it is honestly news that could change my life,” said Muñoz, who already is trying to plan where to establish her dispensary if she becomes a lottery winner. AZDHS has allotted a time frame of 18 months for would-be social equity licensees to apply for approval to operate a cannabis establishment.

But a major obstacle stands in the way of potential social equity license holders like Muñoz, in the form of city zoning. Despite knowing about the upcoming social equity license lottery that was announced last year, the city of Tucson delayed the development of proper zoning for incoming social equity licensees until this March. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and the city council met to begin the lengthy process of amending the city’s Unified Development Code (UDC).

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