$239 million. That’s how much recreational marijuana legalization in Arizona has led to the state collecting in tax revenue in 2021 in combination with existing medical marijuana proceeds.
That tax money saw a whopping $50 million added to the general fund and was the result of a record $1.23 billion in legal cannabis sales.
That’s a big win not just for the companies and individuals involved in newly legal enterprises but also the state as a whole.
Because the money Arizona marijuana tax raises is going to go to where it’s needed most.
Building on the success of medical marijuana legalization
After almost exactly ten years of legalized marijuana use in Arizona (the market for medical use of cannabis opened on December 6, 2012), Arizonans could vote in new recreational legalization with some solid data on their side.
On the business side of the equation, this involved tracking the money made by the medical marijuana industry in Arizona since its launch. As the industry generated some $40 million in sales in its first year alone, this was a pretty healthy trend to want to expand on.
Yet it took several bites of the cherry for Arizonans to vote decisively in favor of the measure. As soon as they did so though, sales proved that there was a huge latent demand waiting for this measure to be passed.
Recreational adult-use cannabis takes off
On January 22, 2021, recreational marijuana in Arizona became legal. Everyone from medical patients to casual users could try out everything from a hundred different strains of cannabis to new ways of consuming them like THC disposable vape pens.
Of the initial number of 130 available licenses, 73 were approved by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) – the organization in charge of administering the new laws.
These businesses were then able to open their doors. And almost the instant they did so, Arizonans started flooding in.
Record sales from the start
Within ten days of the laws being changed, licensed dispensaries recorded nearly $3 million in sales.
But this has proved to be – comparatively speaking – a slow month for sales of recreational marijuana in Arizona. Since then, experts have opined that the industry has only just really – at the end of the first quarter of 2022 – started to reach its full stride.
In the first year since legalization, the more than $1.2 billion in sales has vastly outstripped the initial projections of Proposition 207. Even by comparison to other, more well-established markets in other states, the sales numbers in Arizona are truly record-breaking.
This leaves many forecasters excited by the future potential.
Where does Arizona cannabis tax revenue go?
Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the tax revenue raised by legalized marijuana sales in Arizona have been:
- The general fund – the state’s big pool of tax income has received over $50 million from Arizona’s decision to legalize weed in 2021.
- Health and education programs – the special fund for public health and safety programs and community colleges received around $105 million from the first year’s legal cannabis taxation.
What were the changes in Arizona recreational marijuana laws?
Proposition 207 – the Safe and Smart Arizona Act – put a whole bunch of changes in place to make sure the legalization of cannabis in the state was a benefit to everyone.
Some of the most important provisions include:
1) Adult use
You have to be over 21 years of age to consume or possess marijuana of any amount in Arizona, keeping it in adult hands.
This is the same kind of provision that’s in place to protect younger Arizonans from alcohol. There is also a similar stipulation preventing adults from supplying minors with cannabis.
2) Sensible limits
Even now that cannabis is legal for recreational purposes, you aren’t allowed to carry huge quantities around with you.
The limits state that one person can “possess, purchase, transport, or process 1 ounce or less of marijuana and 5 grams or less of marijuana concentrate”.
If you carry any more than that, you are risking a fine. Carry more than 2.5 ounces (that’s 2.5 times the legal amount!) and you risk much worse.
3) No driving under the influence
Of course, just like alcohol, high on the list of ways to make use of cannabis in Arizona “smart and safe” was to ensure no one is allowed to operate a vehicle while under the influence.
4) Set aside areas where cannabis is still illegal
Places like schools and other educational institutions are also marijuana-free zones in the state despite legalization.
In the workplace, your employer can still say they want their business to be a drug and alcohol-free zone.
It’s also always worth remembering that while Arizona state law might say cannabis is legal for recreational purposes, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. This means you can’t use cannabis on any federal land in the state.
5) Convictions can be expunged
Some of the best news for thousands of people now that Arizona has made weed legal is that previous minor convictions for cannabis-related offenses can be expunged from criminal records.
Expunging isn’t possible for all offenses. If you were carrying some cannabis paraphernalia like a disposable vape or small quantities of marijuana with you and were convicted of that, getting the record expunged is very likely. If you were carrying several ounces of weed around with you or otherwise appeared intending to supply it, you are probably going to struggle.
Nevertheless, for many Arizonans penalized for previous minor offenses, this has the potential to be a whole new lease of life.
More record sales in 2022?
Tracing the meteoric rise of recreational cannabis sales in Arizona has been a positive experience for those who argued strongly in favor of legalization.
But that rise doesn’t look set to end just yet. The numbers collected so far in 2022 look even more promising than the record 2021 figures. And as those observers noted, the legal cannabis industry in Arizona may only just be starting to hit its stride.