Medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona profit from recreational cannabis

Pre-rolls and a tip jar sit on the counter at Sol Flower in Tempe. Customers place orders on digital touch screens and then collect them when paying. (Photo by Hope O’Brien/Cronkite News)

Deontay Ware, left, and Jai Washington prepare to open for the day at Sunday Goods in Tempe. Ware and Washington are “budtenders,” helping customers place orders. (Photo by Hope O’Brien/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Walking into a marijuana dispensary today, it’s hard to say that it’s only been a year since recreational marijuana use was legalized in Arizona. Dispensaries that already sold medical marijuana, which began in 2012, have had to scramble to switch their stores to sell to both recreational and medical customers.

Sol Flower, which has five dispensaries in the Phoenix metro area, was prepared for the big change, according to Allie Marconi, senior director of marketing for parent company Copperstate Farms.

“We were prepared from the start and were one of the first dispensaries to start seeing recreational buyers,” Marconi said. “We spent most of last January preparing much of our assets and marketing communications to accommodate this change.”

The Arizona Department of Revenue reported that more than $196 million was collected in taxes from combined marijuana sales in 2021 – not counting final December figures – with 22% of that total coming from use. adult recreation. The department also estimated $528 million in taxable recreational sales.

In addition to providing dollars to the state, the cannabis industry employs 25,000 people and is growing rapidly, according to the Arizona Dispensaries Association.

Matt Pinchera, president of Arizona-based cannabis company Hana, said the company’s two dispensaries have seen many customers discover marijuana over the past year. He’s noticed that recreational customers gravitate toward more discreet and convenient products, like edibles or vape cartridges, than marijuana flower buds.

According to the Arizona Marijuana Tax Handbook, patients who use marijuana for medical purposes are required to pay a sales tax of 5.6%, while recreational users pay this sales tax of 5.6% and a tax additional 16% excise duty. Excise tax revenue is shared by community colleges, public safety, public health programs and infrastructure.

Zack Hendrickson of Sunday Goods in Tempe went from running car washes to working in the marijuana industry after voters passed Proposition 207 in November 2020. (Photo by Hope O’Brien/Cronkite News)

John Haugh, CEO of Sunday Goods, which owns several dispensaries in the Phoenix area, has noticed that medical marijuana customers are spending more money than recreational users, matching the industry-wide trend. State.

The Department of Revenue estimated that medical sales totaled more than $700 million in 2021, compared to more than $500 million in recreational sales. About 300,000 Arizonans hold medical marijuana cards, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Advocacy group says there is still work to be done

Sam Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, said state officials are generally permissive and flexible when it comes to marijuana regulations, acting more as a compliance partner rather than a as an executing agency.

“This subtle mind shift really helps at a time when we’re all figuring it all out together,” Richard said, adding that while cannabis remains federally illegal, there are several protections in place to protect licensed operators. working in a regulated ecosystem.

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The association is focused on advancing legislation and regulation of the marijuana industry to protect and expose people to marijuana, or as Richard puts it, “to introduce people to the Great Cannabis State”.

But the group wants to see more trust and support from decision makers.

“The public trusts us to a large extent,” Richard said. “We have 25,000 employees actively working in the cannabis space right now in Arizona, and one of the fastest growing industries.”

Haugh said Sunday Goods wanted to make the process of buying marijuana less scary for new and returning customers. For example, the recently opened Tempe location includes a drive-thru window. In-store, customers can ask trained staff for information about specific strains and other concerns, and browse product packaging.

“We’ve really tried at our clinics to make you feel comfortable coming in and asking questions,” Haugh said. “And we want you to leave with a smile and with the certainty that you are going to have the shopping experience that you are looking for.”

About Donnie R. Losey

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