Recreational Weed May Be Legal, But Some Arizona Cities Have More Rules Than Others

Graphic by Morgaine Ford-Workman

By Bree Burkitt

December 11, 2020

Prop 207 gave cities the right to make decisions about limiting recreational marijuana operations and some are taking full advantage of that.

Marijuana is now legal statewide and recreational sales are slated to start next year. But cities across the state are voting in new restrictions that could make it harder for some to get their hands on the greens.

Some of the rules are indisputable. Under Prop 207, anyone 21 and older can legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of concentrate. They can also grow up to six plants or 12 if there are two people living on the property. Edibles can technically be consumed in public and weed vapes can be used wherever vaping is currently allowed

Driving under the influence and smoking weed in public is illegal everywhere.

From there, it gets confusing depending on where you live. Language in the ballot measure gave city and town councils the right to make decisions about limiting recreational marijuana operations and other regulations, including zoning, store counts, and delivery. 

However, the proposition does prevent cities from imposing any standards stricter than those faced by medical marijuana. 

A number of local governments have voted for additional restrictions in recent weeks. Some, like Gilbert, voted way back in October — days before voters even had a chance to vote on the measure. 

Gilbert actually has some of the strictest restrictions. It’s still illegal to buy or sell weed anywhere in town  except for its only medicinal dispensary. The council voted to limit sales to medical-marijuana dispensaries that also have a license to sell recreational weed, which means they likely won’t see an influx of new options soon or any storefronts specifically dedicated to selling recreational weed.

Chandler, Mesa, and Scottsdale also voted in the same restrictions. As did the towns of Oro Valley and Sahuarita in southern Arizona, which currently don’t have any dispensaries in town limits.

Currently, Arizona has about 120 existing medicinal dispensaries. Prop 207 allows them to sell the drug to anyone over 21 starting in spring 2021 and they’ll get preference when it comes to obtaining a license to sell recreational weed. An estimated 12 licenses are also available in addition to the 120. 

It also established “social equity” licenses for communities historically disenfranchised by marijuana laws. The Arizona Department of Health Services will determine who gets those. 

Most cities also voted to not allow marijuana usage on city-owned property. Gilbert and Chandler also enacted additional rules that prevent testing facilities from operating within city limits. Scottsdale will only allow testing at independent third-party labs certified and authorized by the state.

Gilbert’s local law also bans the use, sale, production, storage, or distribution of marijuana on town-owned or operated property. Sahuarita voted for the same thing. 

Payson is a bit of an outlier. The northern Arizona town, which currently has one medicinal dispensary, voted to give the council complete control over where recreational shops can be set up and will consider each application on a case-by-case basis. They also placed additional limits on cultivation on residential property. 

Most councils statewide have yet to discuss or vote on the matter. Some may opt not to adopt any additional restrictions and just refer to what’s outlined in 207. However, it’s likely others will consider more restrictions in the coming months.


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