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Arizona gives out 26 social equity marijuana licenses

On Friday, more than 1,300 applicants anxiously waited to see if they were the lucky ones to receive a golden ticket to Arizona's billion-dollar pot industry.

PHOENIX — The wait is over for more than 1,300 hoping for one of the 26 social equity marijuana licenses. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services randomly selected through SmartPlay International software which is used by state lottery systems to choose applicants meeting the requirements set by the state to "promote the ownership and operation of marijuana establishments and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws." 

This followed Proposition 207, which passed in November of 2020 and legalized adult use of marijuana. 

Henry & Horne LLP served as the operators and auditors to provide an extra layer of security during the lottery. 

"It would create generational wealth for me and my family. It would give me more opportunities to create other business ventures,” said Arianna Munoz, one of the many applicants. “I’ve always wanted to be a brand owner and dispensary owner and it was the perfect time.”    

In February, a judge dismissed a lawsuit that questioned how the state was conducting the lottery. 

“The fight for social equity is never over,” said  Demitri Downing, co-founder of the Arizona Cannabis trade association. 

Demitri Downing helps applicants navigate the system corporate-dominated industry and says the lottery is a step in the right direction. But advocates worry that Prop 207 failed to provide accountability for recipients of the social equity licenses. 

State rules required 51% of the application to be controlled by qualified social equity applicants and recipients could sell their license to another corporation or investor. 

Recipients have 18 months to open their adult-use dispensaries.

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