Have you ever wanted to open a marijuana dispensary? Next spring, the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) will release 26 additional marijuana dispensary licenses. These licenses are reserved for Social Equity applicants defined as “individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”
But the AZDHS application process and rules dictating who can qualify are complex and difficult to navigate. The process is also expensive. There is a $4,000 non-refundable fee to apply for a Social Equity license and there is no guarantee of a license in the end. Next spring, AZDHS will hold a lottery to determine which applicants will receive licenses. Those who did not get selected do not get their $4,000 back.
In response, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99 created the Arizona Marijuana Equity Center (www.azmarijuanalicense.com) to support Social Equity applicants. The online Center serves as a resource for anyone interested in learning more about the Social Equity program in Arizona. Many people have questions about the application process and our team at the Center is available to help answer many of those questions. We also have grants available to cover the $4,000 application fee for qualifying applicants.
As part of their longstanding commitment to improving working conditions for workers, UFCW created the Arizona Marijuana Equity Center because a more equitable and inclusive industry leads to better working conditions for all. In other states, there have been examples of Social Equity owners getting taken advantage of by large dispensary companies and here at the Center, we want to ensure that doesn’t happen in Arizona. But the rules surrounding Social Equity in Arizona can be confusing and convoluted. For example, many potential applicants don’t know there are upcoming deadlines that if missed, may disqualify them from applying in December.
The application period to apply for a Social Equity License this year is Dec. 1-14. But many people don’t know that in order to apply, you must complete a two-day online training mandated by the AZDHS. The deadline to complete that training is Nov. 17. If you do not complete the several hours of online training before Nov. 17, you will be disqualified from applying in December. We can help you register and sign up for the online training to make sure you don’t miss the deadline.
Additionally, all applicants are required to have a Facility Agent License. The process required to obtain a Facility Agent License includes an online application and fingerprint clearance which can take anywhere from 15-30 days to process. All Social Equity applicants must have their Facility Agent License to apply for a marijuana dispensary license in December.
These are just a few examples of things applicants should be doing now to get ready for December. If you would like to learn more about whether you or someone you know may qualify to apply for a Social Equity Dispensary License, visit www.azmarijuanalicense.com/qualify-today.
Rana Lashgari is president of Arizona Municipal Strategies, a leading municipal lobbying, procurement and government relations firm in Phoenix.