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Deadline nears for Arizona marijuana business applicants

November 15, 2021 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The deadline to get state-mandated training to run a marijuana dispensary or similar business in Arizona as part of a “social equity ownership program” is fast approaching.

Wednesday is the last day for applicants to take free classes so they can try to obtain the 26 licenses set aside for people from communities disproportionately impacted by previous marijuana laws,” the Arizona Daily Star reported. Completing the courses is part of the application process.

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

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There may be few people able to apply for the licenses if they don’t get the coursework done on time, Lashgari added.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Arizona after Proposition 207 won voter approval in November 2020.

But the measure came with a caveat to ensure that people in areas heavily impacted by old marijuana laws would be able to run marijuana establishments.

“Social equity applicants” must be principal company officers or board members with at least 51% ownership in the business entity.

License applicants must show they have resided for at least three years between 2016 and 2020 in areas identified as disproportionately affected by previous marijuana laws. The state Department of Health Services looked at socioeconomic data to come up with its list of zip codes that qualify.

Applicants must take the courses about challenges of a marijuana-oriented business, according to the state Department of Health Services website. All the recorded training sessions are accessible on the site. Anyone can set up an account to watch them, whether they apply for the licenses or not.

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

The free classes with industry experts address topics including legal compliance and regulatory statutes, branding and marketing.

Other requirements for social equity marijuana license applicants include a $4,000 application fee. Also, people who have been convicted of low-level marijuana-related offenses will have to file a court petition to get them expunged.

Lashgari said the courses probably take two days for most people.

The Arizona Marijuana Equity Center is willing to help anyone with questions and filling out applications. It’s also offering scholarships to offset the license application fee.

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

Completed applications for the licenses will be accepted throughout the first two weeks of December.