Arizona accepting applications for 26 social equity cannabis licenses

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Regulators in Arizona are taking applications for social equity cannabis retail licenses despite ongoing lawsuits seeking to stop multistate marijuana operators from getting the permits.

The Arizona Department of Health Services started accepting the applications despite the pending lawsuit, which was filed against the state by a group of social equity advocates alleging that regulators haven’t ensured that the 26 permits will go to entrepreneurs who were actually harmed by the war on drugs.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner recently heard from plaintiffs in one lawsuit but decided against ordering the health department to halt taking applications, the Arizona Republic reported.

The deadline for would-be applicants to submit the required paperwork is Dec. 14.

The Greater Phoenix Urban League and social equity group Acre 41, plaintiffs in one lawsuit, argue the regulations don’t prohibit “venture capital firms and large, mostly white-owned, multistate marijuana companies from snatching up all social equity licenses from the 26 successful applicants – effectively defeating the purpose of the voter-approved social equity program.”

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Another group of potential applicants, called Black Seed, sued Nov. 24 over a similar complaint.

Warner set a tentative hearing for late January to hear oral arguments after a health department attorney said the agency would not issue the licenses before then.

The 26 permits could prove valuable considering they will bring the total number of retail licenses to 169 in the limited market.