At 3pm this afternoon, the Arizona Department of Health Services released a list of zipcodes that represent neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by our prior marijuana laws. ADHS has not explained how it selected the zip codes, which interestingly includes some affluent areas like zip code 85006, which encompasses the Coronado Historic District.

The list of geographic areas matters most for Arizonans who intend to apply for a marijuana business license issued pursuant to the social equity ownership program. Proposition 207 reserved twenty-six of these licenses for individuals from “communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.” To qualify for a license, individuals must meet three of four criteria established by ADHS. The four criteria are whether (1) an individual was personally impacted by Arizona’s previous marijuana laws, (2) their family was impacted by our previous marijuana laws, (3) their household income was 400% of the federal poverty level or lower for three of the last five years, and (4) whether they resided for three of the last five years in one of zipcodes identified today.

Importantly, individuals must obtain a marijuana facility agent license before they can apply, which means they cannot have any recent marijuana felonies on their records. Additionally, some people without convictions must also expunge their arrest records to qualify under the personal impact criterion.

Because expungement proceedings can last for two months, and the deadline for submitting applications ends on December 14, 2021, to avoid missing the application deadline, many Arizonans must petition for expungement by the end of next week. The current deadline therefore troubles many applicants and advocates because few people knew if they would qualify until the list of zip codes was released today and because ADHS still has not released final rules governing the program. Furthermore, very few Arizonans are currently aware of the program’s existence.

Arizona NORML State Director Mike Robinette offered the following comment:

The Department of Health Services’ failure to adopt final rules in a timely fashion poses significant threats to the viability of the social equity ownership program established by Proposition 207. While campaigning for the Smart & Safe Arizona Act, we made over 65,000 phone-calls to Arizona voters who consistently voiced their support for the restorative justice components of the initiative, including expungements and the social equity ownership program.

Having hosted more than twenty-five clinics, I have spoken firsthand with scores of people from disproportionately impacted communities about the social equity ownership program. Overwhelming, these individuals were unaware of the program’s existence. At the average clinic, approximately four out of five people voice surprise about their ability to apply for a license that is uniquely reserved for people like them.

Arizona NORML is troubled that the rules require expungements to occur in an impossibly compressed timeframe. Assuming the application period does not change, if someone finds out about the social equity program today—and their eligibility for it—they will not have enough time to expunge their records and submit an application before the deadline.

 Due to the importance of this program, we therefore urge the Department to promptly adopt final rules for the program and delay its application deadline so that word can spread about the program and qualified individuals can take advantage of this unique opportunity to right the wrongs of our government’s unjust war on marijuana consumers.