Weed enthusiasts, are you hungry? Get ready.
Marijuana dispensaries Valley-wide have a lot more to celebrate on “420” — April 20 — after voters last year approved a measure to legalize recreational use of the drug for those age 21 and older.
While local joints will be celebrating the short-term victory of adding to their customer base beyond medical card holders, the industry’s future remains a bit cloudy as to what the recreational-use market will look like.
For now, it’s celebration time. The Mint Dispensary is hosting a blowout party where the company announced plans to give away a sports car as part of its festivities leading up to Tuesday, April 20.
The company’s three locations — Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa — will host socially distanced celebrations with free food, games and giveaways that include a Ford Mustang GT. Customers who visit any of the Mint’s three retail locations in metro Phoenix before April 20 will have the opportunity to enter to win the Mustang.
On Tuesday, Mint officials will announce the winner of the sports car at its north Phoenix location. The Mint announced it would also make a $2,500 donation to a local nonprofit breast cancer research advocacy group at the event. Phoenix’s Mint location is at 17036 N. Cave Creek Road, Phoenix.
The company also is hiring retail and administrative employees as part of the celebration.
Mint officials have said the company wants to hire 40 full-time employees at the location along with trying to fill other needs at other stores.
“This year’s 4/20 celebration is especially momentous given the recent opening of our third dispensary, which is the largest in the city of Phoenix and second largest in the state,” said Eivan Shahara, CEO of Brightroot Inc., parent company of the Mint.
Other companies, such as Sol Flower in Sun City, are having their own celebrations for April 20.
Sol Flower is offering its customers a $20 menu and buy one, get one on certain items. The company’s website lists certain cannabis oil cartridges for $20 as part of the special pricing.
“It’s a $20 value menu,” said Tracel Watson, who has worked at Sol Flower for more than a year. “It’s kind of like the value menu at McDonald’s.”
Ms. Watson said she has seen “a steady flow” of recreational marijuana customers since January.
“The recreational population is tremendous,” Ms. Watson said. “...We do see a lot of seniors. It’s really great to see that population being active in the cannabis community.”
In Sun City, you don’t even have to get out of your vehicle to get some green. Allgreens Inc. has a drive-thru for its customers.
The dispensary at 10032 W Bell Road Suite 100 is offering sale items such as THC oil and discounted edibles on Monday and Tuesday.
There is no mistaking what’s happening at Valley marijuana dispensaries this week. But long-term, the future of what’s going to happen with marijuana in Arizona in the coming years is a bit hazy.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there are a total of 130 medical marijuana dispensaries with 124 operating facilities. Since January, health department officials awarded 92 recreational licensees in Maricopa County, said Holly Poynter, spokeswoman at the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The health department began accepting recreational applications for early applicants on Jan. 19. The first facility applications were approved on Jan. 22, according to Ms. Poynter.
Proposition 207 — the measure that legalized marijuana in the state that was approved by voters in November — allowed for existing dispensaries who were in good standing to apply to become dual licensees between Jan. 19 and March 9.
Ms. Poynter said dual licensees must operate their medical marijuana dispensary and adult-use establishment retail site out of a shared location.
Demitri Downing, founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona, said he doesn’t believe there has been an explosion of recreational users since the start of the year. He said he closely follows policy, regulations and the market.
Instead, Mr. Downing said legalization has allowed that group to come out of the dark.
“It’s a great thing,” Mr. Downing said. “They came out of the black market.
“...It appears to be a boom,” Mr. Downing said. “It’s not a boom at all. It’s a transition.”
The U.S. market for medical and recreational marijuana was estimated at $11.6 billion this year, according to research firm IbisWorld. That represented a 29.5% annual growth rate as Arizona and other states began to allow recreational marijuana use.
This month, health department officials will hold a random selection lottery to determine who gets new marijuana establishment licenses in counties with less than two medical marijuana dispensaries in a certain area.
The drawing will be at 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 19. We'll live-stream it at azdhs.gov/live and post names of those selected.
As of March 8, eight counties in the state had less than two dispensaries. The counties include: Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma.
Mr. Downing said he fights for individual’s rights to be able to choose whether to use marijuana. He is calling for more transparency from the state government.
The “story is still being written” on how different states experiment with regulations, Mr. Downing said. In Arizona, he said there should be more transparency about the regulation process. He said there should be a free market in Arizona regarding marijuana. Now, new license holders can pay a steep price to obtain a license. The non-refundable application fee is $25,000.
“How the pie is divided up is not talked about,” Mr. Downing said. “Why is it divided up a certain way?”
Surprise resident Dylan Beson said he might transition to a regular recreational user after the law change.
On Friday, Mr. Beson, 28, made the 20-minute drive to Sun City’s Allgreens. He said it was his first visit as a recreational marijuana customer.
Mr. Beson said he thought about coming into the store after his friends have had medical marijuana cards.
“Depending on how this goes, I can see myself coming back,” he said.