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Deadlines coming up for potential marijuana dispensary applicants in Arizona

Earth's Healing Dispensary

Proposition 207, which made adult-use recreational marijuana legal in the state, established the “social equity ownership” program that sets aside 26 licenses for “people from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”

Time is running out to take mandatory training and education classes offered by Arizona’s health department for potential candidates to the state’s adult-use marijuana “social equity ownership program.”

The deadline to sign up and create a valid profile for the training is Wednesday, Nov. 17. The deadline to complete the training is now Wednesday, Nov. 24, after a change in Arizona Department of Health Services guidelines.

“A lot of people don’t know about that deadline,” said Rana Lashgari, president of Arizona Municipal Strategies, a Phoenix-based lobbying group partnering with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 99, to create the Arizona Marijuana Equity Center, a service to help potential social equity ownership applicants apply.

Passed as part of Proposition 207, which made adult-use recreational marijuana legal in Arizona, the “social equity ownership” program sets aside 26 licenses for “people from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services has offered trainings, which are free, can only be taken online and are led by industry experts. They cover topics like legal compliance and regulatory statutes, branding and marketing, fundraising as well as legal advice.

“It’s an educational opportunity that all the applicants must take,” said Tom Salow, branch chief for the AZDHS. “It’s going to cover a variety of topics. Some of those areas, some folks may need some education on.”

If potential candidates to the program are interested in applying and are just now learning of the process, they’ll need to act fast according to Lashgari, noting “it probably takes about two full days,” to complete the pre-recorded videos and accompanying tests.

Lashgari said the training deadline is one of many coming in the next month that potential applicants to the social equity program face. The department will accept applications over a two-week period from Dec. 1-14.

In addition to the training classes, applicants will also need to have acquired a “facility agent card,” which requires a fingerprint and background check. Those take time to process, Lashgari said.

Also, one of the three criteria candidates have to meet (there are four, only three must be met) to be eligible to apply to the program stipulates that an applicant with an eligible low-level marijuana offense must have that offense expunged.

On top of all that, each application is subject to a $4,000 application fee.

All of that is a lot to navigate, said Lashgari, even for someone from a legal background.

“People, as they navigate these rules, can sometimes be stuck in this gray, limbo-like area,” she said.

For anyone who is interested in applying, AZDHS said it is offering “one-on-one” support to help with any potential questions.

In addition, outside resources, like Lashgari’s new Arizona Marijuana Equity Center, are offering to help potential applicants with any questions and in filling application paperwork.

“We want to get this message out,” she said. “We want to support the social equity applicants in the industry.”

Edward Celaya is a breaking news and marijuana reporter. He has been on both beats since May 2021.

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