With an unexpected soft opening, Arizona launched retail cannabis sales Friday afternoon, less than three months after passing adult-use legalization on last November’s ballot.
More than 70 existing dispensaries got the nod to immediately start adult-use sales Friday, accounting for over half the marijuana stores across the state.
“Historically, this is massive,” said Pankaj Talwar, CEO of four Sol Flower dispensaries in the Metro Phoenix area. “We’re already one of the strongest medical markets in the country, and this is just going to make things bigger.”
Fastest vote-to-opening ever
Friday’s openings mean the Grand Canyon State now owns the record for fastest turnaround from passing an adult-use initiative to actually launching sales, blowing out Nevada’s previous mark of eight months, set in 2016.
A spokesperson for Arizona’s Department of Health Services said 79 medical marijuana dispensaries had applied to sell recreational marijuana since Tuesday. All but six got the nod 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 dispensaries to be on board soon.
“I have to imagine just about everyone’s going to 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 with rec on the ballot to fall short.
The slim loss was heartbreaking, as the adult-use initiative fell short by just a fraction of one percent. For some of the state’s biggest cannabis advocates, it was like watching their season end on a buzzer-beater.
“We had all of the momentum and really thought we could do it,” recalled Samuel Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association. “The opponents funded so much negative propaganda, though, filled with falsehoods