Leisure hashish gross sales debut in Arizona months forward of schedule
With an unexpectedly soft opening, Arizona began retail cannabis sales on Friday afternoon, less than three months after legalization for adult use was passed last November.
More than 70 existing pharmacies were selected to start selling adult products immediately on Friday, equivalent to more than half of the marijuana stores across the state.
“Historically, this is huge,” said Pankaj Talwar, CEO of four Sol Flower pharmacies in the Metro Phoenix area. “We are already one of the strongest medical markets in the country, and that will only make things bigger.”
Fastest opening vote ever
Friday’s openings mean Grand Canyon State now has the record for the fastest turnaround from passing an adult-use initiative to actually going to market, beating Nevada’s previous eight-month mark in 2016.
An Arizona Department of Health spokesman said 79 medical marijuana dispensaries had filed to sell recreational marijuana since Tuesday. All but six had the nods to move forward on Friday. The others are expected to be approved within a few days.
Talwar and other industry leaders expect the vast majority of the remaining 62 medical pharmacies to be on board soon.
“I have to imagine that almost everyone would want to do this,” he said.
Redemption at the ballot box
While Nevada, California, Maine, and Massachusetts legalized adult use back in 2016, Arizona was the only state that violated the election.
The small loss was heartbreaking as the adult use initiative was missed by a fraction of one percent. For some of the state’s biggest cannabis advocates, it was like watching the end of the season with a summer beater.
“We got all the momentum and really thought we could do it,” recalls Samuel Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association. “However, the opponents have funded so much negative propaganda, filled with falsehoods about problems in other legal cannabis states.”
The 2020 election turned out to be the final salvation. Proposition 207, the Safe and Smart Act, was passed with a whopping 20% to finally make Arizona’s adult dreams come true.
Avid customers line up outside of Territory in Chandler, Arizona, waiting for the adult store’s official sale to begin at 4:20 am on Friday, January 22, 2021. (Courtesy photo of Territory)
Tax revenue is starting to roll
Prop. 207 legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana flower or five grams of concentrated THC for adults 21 and older. The state added a 16% excise tax on retail sales of the facility to aid public safety, public health programs, community colleges, and infrastructure projects.
The law also allows adults to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.
“Voters had four years to watch other host countries thrive, and this time it was an easy win,” said Richard. “Time has helped people convince themselves that most of their fears about legal cannabis were largely false.”
The results of last autumn were a long time coming. But Prop. 207 meant nothing until the pharmacies could actually start selling.
According to the initiative, health officials had 60 days to approve adult sales requests and most pharmacy owners were preparing to begin in March or April. They thought a start date for 4/20 would make for a massive celebration.
Instead, her wish was granted months earlier. Health Department officials announced Tuesday, to everyone’s surprise, that they were accepting applications for medical pharmacies. The process was as simple as filing a few fingerprints and writing a check for $ 25,000.
“It did it so quickly,” said an ADHD spokesman. “We already knew these operators and had information about their companies. So it was pretty seamless. “
Hardly any time to prepare
While the earlier than expected start did not offer the drama of a 4/20 start, the pharmacy managers surveyed were mostly satisfied with the speed of processing.
Lilach Power was one of the Grand Canyon State’s original cannabis dispensary owners when medical sales began in 2012. The Giving Tree Pharmacy in North Phoenix served a small handful of daily customers for its first few years. But later in the decade, when Arizona’s medical program was flourishing, it began to make a profit.
When adult legalization expired, Power built a new store – twice the size of Giving Tree’s original store – to meet the expected surge of new customers. Reports from other states using adults suggested that pharmacies would have three to five times more buyers than medical-only stores. That’s why she wanted to be ready.
But because the Rec-Start came so quickly on Friday, Powers and her team still hadn’t moved stores. The coming days will be a “fire drill” where everything will be moved to Giving Tree’s new home, she said.
The soft, slow start gives her time to prepare, she said.
“I think we’ll definitely see some big lines in the first few days, but it shouldn’t be as drastic as what you’ve seen in other states. It’s not a set date that people can really prepare for, so a lot of people are still finding out that Rec is legal. “
Consumers were also surprised
When local media reported possible permits earlier this week, Power said people flocked to Giving Tree by the dozen. The influx of customers led to lines outside the door of the pharmacy in Phoenix.
Every day through Thursday, a few dozen customers asked staff if Giving Tree was selling marijuana for retail purposes.
The same goes for Talwar and Sol Flower. He said one percent of his buyers had kept up with the news. However, most still had no idea that adult marijuana was coming so quickly.
It didn’t take long for the news to spread.
Within hours of the ADHD announcement, social media showed people in pharmacies and customers making their first legal purchases.
But Talwar warned it would be a while before things settled down. While Sol Flower doesn’t expect to be approved for inclusion for about a week, she believes the first few months will be “controlled chaos” for everyone.
“It’s the nature of the industry we’re in,” he said. “But it’s a team effort. Everyone just wants their customers to be happy and to know what to expect. “
Chris Kudialis is a Las Vegas-based cannabis reporter. He has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Sun, Charlotte Observer, Houston Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, and the Brazilian Rio Times, among others.
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