Marijuana licenses will be awarded by lottery
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona is scheduled to hold a lottery next month to distribute 26 social equity marijuana licenses.
The licenses were approved by voters two years ago when they passed Proposition 207 which allowed for the use of recreational marijuana.
The voters thought it a good idea to compensate those people who were arrested and jailed under the old marijuana laws which, in retrospect, seemed unjust.
But not just individuals, but the areas where people were disproportionately affected. Areas the state says statistically have more than 50% minority, 25% food stamp recipients and not more than 400% poverty level. Those are criteria for where the licenses can be issued.
Another factor is the person must have been arrested for a marijuana violation which has now been expunged.
“These are intended to help people who were, back in the day, who got busted for pot,” said Ward 6 Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik. But adds “My position is that right now the whole equity license set up process that the state set up is a sham.”
It’s a sham he believes because the process doesn’t insure the person who is awarded the license is the person who will profit from it.
“It doesn’t require the person who was adversely affected to stay in the game,” said Tucson attorney Michael Crawford. “These licenses can be transferred as soon as they’re awarded.”
Crawford says big marijuana corporations are finding people whose records have been expunged and are working deal where they win a license, they, the corporation, takes over management of the operation.
“It basically says I’ll pay you $50,000 to sign over the rights to the agreement but you’ll technically be the owner,” Crawford says.
Both Kozachik and Crawford say that violates the spirit of the law.
Kozachik says the deal works something like this.
“You walk through the process and we’re going to make you a rich man but we want the license at the end of the game,” he said. “That’s what the concern is and that’s what the state and the courts drawn a line around prohibiting these.”
The Tucson City Council will discuss social equity marijuana licenses at its biweekly council meeting to try to find a way to insure the licenses benefit the communities they’re designed to benefit.
“We have the right under state law to regulate where these things go based on zoning conditions,” Kozachik said. “That to me seems the only tool we have to make sure they’re going to the right people.”
The state said it is not doing interviews on the subject, in part, because the Department of Health is going through 1,500 applications for the 26 licenses.
Crawford estimates each license could be worth $8 to $10 million each.
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