Arizona Cannabis: Key Update from Department of Health Services; Rules Imminent!

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Last week, the Arizona Department of Health Services released a new web page of information related to the Smart and Safe Arizona Act – Arizona’s new adult use marijuana law. The Department is the regulatory authority for marijuana in Arizona. In addition to links for the full text of the Act and the current regulations for medical marijuana (which will control for adult use until the new adult use regulations are released), the web page also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS). The FAQs should be helpful to businesses and entrepreneurs gearing up for licensing a few short months from now, in March of 2021 (the first recreational marijuana sales are set to begin in April).

The FAQS include several categories, including general information, information regarding the cultivation and sale of marijuana, purchasing marijuana and licensing. For example, one the FAQS asked “Is my employer required to allow me to use marijuana?” For adult use marijuana, the Department states that “an employer retains the right to maintain a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace.”

If you have questions regarding licensing and related issues, the Department also released an email address for inquiries – M2Dispensaries@azdhs.gov. You can bet that this address will be flooded with questions. Based on our firm’s experience in multiple states, the Department will likely use common inquiries to further update these FAQs, and issue licensing guidance in the future. So it’s worth checking in on the FAQs and Department publications frequently.

The Department also announced that it expects to release proposed regulations for adult use marijuana establishments, which includes dispensaries, by mid-December 2020. That’s obviously just around the corner and we are eager to see what the Department has put together.

Any concerned individual should have the right to provide comments to the proposed regulations. If you are an industry participant, or would like to get involved, then reviewing and providing comments to the proposed regulations may be beneficial. You should also review our prior posts on Arizona’s new law to gain a general understanding of the new law and possible opportunities in Arizona’s evolving cannabis industry. The new law generally became effective as of December 1, 2020.

Also, on November 25, 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. 2020-184, which entitled “In the Matter of: Establishing Procedures for Filing and Hearing Civil Marijuana Cases”.  As the Arizona Supreme Court noted:

Proposition 207 does not provide a process for the filing and adjudication of marijuana violations classified as civil pursuant to A.R.S. § 36-2853. Changes to statutes and court rules will be necessary to implement the proposition. These changes are not expected to be completed for some time.

However, in the interim, while we wait for these changes, certain procedures were put into place by the Arizona Supreme Court for adjudicating certain minor marijuana offenses. For example, certain civil marijuana violations (e.g., smoking marijuana in public places) can be filed with a Justice of the Peace Court, as well as a Municipal Court, and may be filed using the Uniform Traffic Ticket and Complaint. The new procedures outlined in the Administrative Order are effective until September 30, 2021 or until further order of the Arizona Supreme Court.

We will be sure to update with our analysis on the proposed Department regulations as soon as they issue. In the meantime, check out the following recent Arizona cannabis posts.

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