PHOENIX — The state of Arizona will soon be handing out more marijuana business licenses, but these coveted licenses are not for just anyone. They are called “social equity” licenses and are set aside for communities impacted harshly by the war on drugs.

While no one has yet defined these communities, the state health department has put together a first draft proposal of who might qualify to apply for these licenses.

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According to the rules, applicants must have lived in Arizona for three of the last five years, and they must meet at least three of the following five criteria:

  • Had a household income in at least three of the last five years that is less than 400% of the federal poverty level.
  • Was convicted of a violation of a federal or state law related to marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia and does not have an excluded felony offense OR is eligible for and has petitioned for expungement of charges relating to the possession of less than 2.5 ounces of Cannabis.
  • Has a spouse, surviving spouse, parent, child, sibling, or legal guardian who was convicted of a violation of state or federal laws related to marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.
  • Has lived for at least three of the last five years in a “community that has been disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws. (The state adds that these criteria are still being developed and will be added to the rules by September 1, 2021).
  • Complete an ADHS approved training course

The application fee for a license is a $5,000 non-refundable fee. The state will use a lottery system to pick the license holders within the next six months.

Many marijuana industry advocates believe these rules are a big improvement from the first draft released by the state a few weeks ago.

The proposal limited applicants to those who had a minor drug possession criminal charge and those living in poverty.

Those who want to learn more about these rules or applying for a marijuana dispensary “social equity” license can attend an informational meeting held by the Marijuana Industry Trade Association Thursday.

You can find the details or sign up for a mentor at Social Equity Mentorship Program Information – MITA AZ (


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