Arizona gets 1,500-plus applications for cannabis social equity licenses

Arizona marijuana regulators received more than 1,500 applications from cannabis entrepreneurs hoping to win one of the 26 highly coveted social equity permits that will be up for grabs via lottery early next year.

According to the Associated Press, the Arizona Department of Health will review all applications to make sure they’re eligible as social equity candidates, but an exact date for the lottery has yet to be determined.

Under the 2020 ballot measure that legalized adult-use marijuana, the social equity permits are to be allocated to “people from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”

The window for applications closed Dec. 14, and the licenses are considered highly valuable given that Arizona caps the number of marijuana permits at the state level.

In addition to the social equity licenses, there are only 143 other permits available, and many have already sold for millions of dollars to large companies.

Social equity advocates are concerned that the 26 permits also will wind up in the hands of white-owned companies.

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A lawsuit filed in November by the Greater Phoenix Urban League and other stakeholders wants regulators to guarantee that the licenses will be given to recipients who were harmed by the war on drugs and not to representatives of large multistate operators. A hearing is scheduled for January in the case.

Large operators reportedly have sought to recruit social equity partners to skirt the restrictions.

According to the Phoenix New Times, the recruitment efforts have included sending flyers to individuals living in the areas targeted as disadvantaged and offering financial inducements to partner up.