Cannabis culture is changing Phoenix after recreational marijuana legalized

Posted 11/29/21

Recreational marijuana has been legal for just over a year in Arizona, allowing anyone 21 and older to buy cannabis from any distributer holding a license issued by the Arizona Department of Health …

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Cannabis culture is changing Phoenix after recreational marijuana legalized


Recreational marijuana has been legal for just over a year in Arizona, allowing anyone 21 and older to buy cannabis from any distributer holding a license issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

While medical marijuana was made legal by Proposition 203 over a decade ago, Proposition 207, nicknamed “Pot Prop” by Arizonans, not only made the distribution of recreational marijuana legal under a license, but also allows those who are of age to grow up to six marijuana plants at their residence, making marijuana more accessible for those that do not own a medical marijuana card.

The new proposition grew popular with marijuana users in Phoenix, with sales reaching almost $3 million in January 2021, the first month recreational sales began, according to the Arizona Department of Revenue.

A year into Proposition 207 being in action, the region has embraced fully legal marijuana with open arms; from constant dispensary sales to THC-themed events, Phoenix residents everywhere are getting high, legally.

 Arizona experienced a surge in marijuana sales following the approval of Proposition 207, confirming the plant’s popularity among residents. According to the Department of Revenue, Arizona is predicted to surpass $1 billion in marijuana sales for the year. Billboards for dispensaries can be seen while driving along most Valley roads advertising the now-legal product to anyone over the age of 21, and dispensaries can be found within 10-mile radiuses of each other, with lines extending through the doors on a normal day. Marina Mars, a recreational user, notices the difference between recreational sale wait times and medical sale wait times.

 “When I go to the dispensary recreationally, I usually wait about 30 minutes,” Mars said. “When I go with my boyfriend who has a medical card, we’re in and out within 10 minutes.”

Dispensary popularity in Phoenix could be contributed to Arizona’s marijuana prices. Estately, a real estate company, reports on its website  that Arizona has the 11th cheapest cannabis prices in the country. With access to services like Leafly, which bills itself as the “world’s most trusted destination to discover cannabis products”, according to the Leafly website, marijuana users can find sales, coupons and other deals on all forms of cannabis.

Douglas Bonnell is just one Phoenix resident who takes advantage of these deals and uses them to stock up on his favorite products for a lower price.

“Leafly sends me a text and will tell me what dispensaries have what deals for the day. Other links take me to what the specials are for the whole week,” Bonnell said. “I was doing each deal as soon as they came out, so I was hitting about three to five dispensaries a day.”

Low prices are bound to attract customers, and Bonnell recalls that dispensaries are frequently out of stock of popular products because of high demand. Bill Houghton, the license acquisitioning project manager of Latitude Dispensaries, has a few theories as to why people in Phoenix love to smoke. 

“I think the political climate here is a lot different from other areas, because everyone is more libertarian with their political views. So, in Phoenix some things like the legalization of marijuana isn't opposed by republicans the same way that it is in other areas,” Houghton said. “I also think the weather has something to do with it, the fact that everyone's out and about all year, maybe it's the climate that makes people smoke, it's kind of a social activity."

Bars, clubs and other social settings are typically influenced heavily by alcohol; however, legalized marijuana opened new doors for the party scene in Phoenix. Local community spaces are now able to incorporate THC into events as long as the business holds an appropriate license.

Melt Lounge, a smoke shop and event space at McDowell and 59th Avenue, includes a glass-blowing station where attendees can watch artists create glass pieces, open mic nights and “Meltflix & Chill” movie nights, which are all 420-friendly. The lounge hosted “Trick or Beats” in October, which featured local DJs and a selection of THC concentrates, a waxy form of marijuana that is often referred to as a “dab.”

“Trick or Beats had an ‘all you can dab’ bar, it was $30 to enter and then $30 extra for the bar, so for concentrates and rigs and everything,” Eddie Higginson, an attendee of the event said. “The bar was full the whole time.”

Larger event production companies such as Relentless Beats, an Arizona-based EDM show promotion company, have begun incorporating THC into larger shows and festivals. Relentless Beats is known to partner with alcohol companies for shows, featuring booths from brands like Beatbox and Don Julio Tequila, and has now started to work with cannabis companies for events.

Goldrush Fest, a three-day western-inspired festival put on in September by Relentless at Rawhide Event Center, attracted marijuana users with their partnerships with local dispensaries and smoke shops. Attendees of the festival, like Allie Hayes, a frequent attendee of Relentless events, could stroll through the wild west-themed town and receive promotional deals from dispensary booths from The Flower Shop, Abstrakt, and other local suppliers.

“This past year at Goldrush there was a fun promotion table for a local dispensary- Nirvana Center. They were giving away chances to win vouchers for some of their products for a simple follow on their Instagram,” Hayes said. “My friends and I played a wheel-spin and got to walk away with free cartridge vouchers. It was a really cool pop-up; it’s cool to see 420-friendly promotions in the community.”

Cannabis use isn’t just limited to partygoers in Phoenix, as other businesses have embraced Proposition 207 with open arms as well. The Clarendon Hotel and Spa is a four-star hotel in the heart of downtown Phoenix that offers accommodations and experiences for THC-enthused guests.

Starting in July, The Clarendon opened up access to their “cannabis-friendly” rooms, a collection of hotel rooms that allow guests to use flower, vape and edible forms of THC, as long as the products are being consumed inside the rooms, which are ventilated through a ‘scrubber’ to filter out any lingering odors. Products can be purchased from local dispensaries, which the hotel plans to provide a shuttle to and from, according to the Clarendon website.

The hotel allows guests to indulge in THC-infused meals prepared by Derek Upton, Arizona’s “Cannabis Chef” who has been featured on multiple cannabis cooking shows, including “Cooked with Cannabis” and “Chopped 420.” Upton hosts monthly dining experiences on the hotel’s roof, where guests can pay $250 for the meal.

In its first year of full legality, cannabis in Arizona took off, inspiring new opportunities for users to incorporate marijuana into daily activities and special events. Years to come can be expected to continue with the same success, as marijuana laws all over the country are becoming less and less restrictive.

Hannah Smith is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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