Officials in Arizona announced on Friday that the health department had approved licenses for dozens of facilities throughout the state to begin legally selling recreational marijuana to adults.
The policy change follows the passage of Proposition 207 in November when 60% of the electorate decided to allow people age 21 years or older to legally possess or use the drug and grow up to six cannabis plants in their homes.
Voters narrowly shot down a similar proposal four years ago, although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2010.
The Associated Press reports that the vote “reflected larger trends at play during the historic election that saw Democrat Joe Biden flip the longtime Republican stronghold,” adding, “changing demographics, including a fast-growing Latino population and an influx of new residents, have made the state friendlier to Democrats.”
According to the Arizona Republic, “it is the fastest that any of the 15 states with recreational marijuana has gone from voter approval to actual sales.”
The new law also covers cannabis products such as edibles and vape pens, while permitting adults to have up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana flower and up to five grams in concentrate form.
State health officials said 86 applications had been approved for recreational marijuana sales on Friday, mostly to existing medical marijuana dispensaries that were able to immediately accommodate new recreational customers. The line reportedly stretched halfway around the building at one location in Scottsdale that had been awarded a license.
“We all grew up being told it was a bad thing, and it’s not such a bad thing, so now we all get to experience that,” 29-year-old Sara Schuck told The AZ Republic. “It’s a plant at the end of the day, and it’s got a lot of medicinal properties and a lot of good positive things it can do for everyone, and I think it’s a good thing the world is accepting that.”
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana in early December. Lawmakers passed a bill that would remove the drug from the list of federally controlled substances, expunge federal pot-related convictions for lower-level offenses, and allow for the regulation of legal cannabis sales. The proposal was not expected to pass the Senate, but that was before Democrats took control of the chamber.
As The Washington Post reported at the time, “the House took a stand at a moment of increasing momentum, with voters last month opting to liberalize marijuana laws in five states – including three that President Trump won handily,” and:
On Election Day in South Dakota, for instance, 54 percent of voters opted to legalize marijuana, while only 36 percent of voters chose the Democratic presidential ticket. In Montana, the 57 percent who voted to legalize marijuana nearly matched the number who voted to reelect Trump. And Mississippi became the first state in the Deep South to legalize marijuana for medical use, with 62 percent of voters approving a ballot measure in a state where Trump won 58 percent of the vote.
Fifteen states have legalized recreational cannabis to some degree, and 36 states have approved medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would not end the vast majority of cannabis-use prosecutions, which occur in state courts. But it would end troublesome conflicts between state and federal law for those states that have loosened pot restrictions and would greatly ease commerce for the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry.
According to the AP: “Arizona prosecutors dropped thousands of marijuana possession cases after the measure was approved. Possession in the state technically became legal when the election results were certified Nov. 30, but there was no authorized way to purchase cannabis without a medical marijuana card.”
A recent Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support legalizing marijuana.