Tucson Weedly: News Nuggets

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KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM

It appears that not many people are rushing to apply for medical marijuana cards now that recreational cannabis is available on shelves throughout Arizona.

Between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2021, fewer than 14,000 qualifying patients have applied for medical cards, according to the most recent report from the Arizona Department of Health Services. By comparison, in the first four months of 2020, nearly 95,000 qualifying patients applied for cards.

While the numbers of people applying may have dropped significantly, the number of qualified patients in the state has increased in the last year. At the end of April 2021, Arizona had just under 308,000 qualified patients; at the end of April 2020, the state had nearly 236,000 qualified patients.

The drop in applications is bad news for certification clinics, which generally charge about $100 to $150 for an exam on top of the $150 that it costs to get a card from the state. (There's a half-price discount from the state for those eligible for SNAP benefits.) That's a sizable sum to sink into being a licensed user now that a recreational program is active in the state.

A second reason for the drop could be related to the state expanding the expiration of the card from one year to two last year. It's been more than a year since the change, so many folks who got a new card or a renewal in 2020 don't need to go back in 2021.

Still, there are benefits from hanging onto your card: Recreational customers pay an extra 16% tax. We'll let you do the math to determine if you buy cannabis enough to save money, but you can figure that for every $100 you spend, you're paying an extra $16. Cardholders can also buy a wider range of higher-dose edibles, legally possess more cannabis and receive other discounts at select dispensaries.

While the number of qualifying patients who are seeking cards has decreased, the number of people seeking to work in dispensaries has increased. At the end of April 2020, the state had just under 7,300 licensed dispensary agents. At the end of April 2021, that number had climbed to more than 10,000.

A HIGH NUMBER OF TRANSACTIONS

Medical marijuana cardholders have smoked, eaten and otherwise purchased more than 60,000 pounds of cannabis so far this year.

That includes more than 52,000 pounds of old-school flower along with more than 1,000 pounds of edible products and 6,300 of cannabis in other forms.

The most transactions were in January, with nearly 1.1 million sales. February had more than 800,000 transactions, March saw more than 900,000 transactions and April—which featured the stoner holiday 4/20—had nearly 900,000 transactions.

That 4/20 holiday saw a big spike in sales, with nearly 900 pounds sold in that one day. April's second-highest day of sales, on April 17, didn't top 700 pounds.

Compare this to 2020, when nearly 1,000 pounds of cannabis were sold on 4/20.

POLICY UP IN SMOKE

Online retailer Amazon announced last week that they would no longer fire employees or reject potential new hires for using cannabis.

"In the past, like many employers, we've disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use," wrote Dave Clark, CEO, Worldwide Consumer. "However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we've changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use."

Clark said the company would still do impairment checks on the job and test for drugs and alcohol after accidents.

Clark added that the company would also lobby on behalf of "the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities. We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law."

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