New AZ Dispensary Licenses Expected to Be Sold to Highest Bidders

Arizona is on the brink of legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21-years old and older. A new proposal would create a license system to allow interested parties to purchase licenses from the state in exchange for pot, furthering its legalization process.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is nearing completion of new regulations regulating the eligibility of 26 individuals from areas most affected by the drug war for marijuana shop licenses.

A provision in Proposition 207 creates a “social equity ownership” scheme, which allocates 26 marijuana dispensary licenses to “those from areas disproportionately affected by the enforcement of prior marijuana laws.”

“It was also supposed to eliminate what many people saw as a perverse situation where someone selling cannabis with a license could become a billionaire while someone selling cannabis without a license could go to prison for decades,” Julie Gunnigle, board member for the Arizona chapter of NORML, told

However, Gunnigle claims that the social equity scheme has a flaw: the ability to transfer licenses soon after they are granted.

A freshly granted dispensary license, according to Gunnigle, might bring between $10 million and $20 million on the open market, meaning social equity licensees will have millions of reasons to sell their license to the highest bidder right now.

“You’ve built a system that’s exactly perfect for abuse when you establish a scheme like this, where licenses are freely transferable on Day 1 and can be transferred to individuals other than social justice applicants with no strings attached,” Gunnigle said.

This year, social equity permits may be requested for from December 1 to December 14, and will be granted via a random lottery in late December.

Ken Bosma/Flickr CC2.0 Modified photo