Congress Recreational Marijuana Use

Only one of the 24 applicants to open the next recreational marijuana dispensary in Cochise County has local ties.

SIERRA VISTA — There are 24 entities vying for the chance to open the next marijuana dispensary in Cochise County, but only one is local and linked to a handful of businesses in Sierra Vista.

Late last month, Laxmi Enterprises LLC, applied to open a recreational marijuana dispensary in Sierra Vista, city records show. According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, one of Laxmi’s owners is Amar Amin of Sierra Vista. Amin is tied to a few other concerns in the city, including Bonanza Dry Cleaners on East Fry Boulevard.

Amin is the only applicant of the 24 who either lives in, or has, a Cochise County address. The rest of the applicants hail from Maricopa or Pima counties. The Arizona Corporation Commission website shows Amin has a residence in Sierra Vista.

Amin’s application to the city’s Economic Development division shows that the dispensary would be opened in a building at 51 S. 2nd St. Amin did not return requests from the Herald/Review to be interviewed for this article.

There are 10 other applicants hoping to open a pot shop in Sierra Vista, followed by nine applicants in Bisbee, three in Willcox and one in Douglas, records show.

And each application has an equal chance of getting chosen, state officials said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which regulates and licenses marijuana dispensaries and establishments, will, for the time being, be giving out two dispensary licenses per county.

Because Cochise County already has a dispensary in Bisbee — Green Farmacy, which now caters to both medical marijuana cardholders and recreational consumers after being given recent clearance to sell to both groups — only one more license is available for the area, state and county officials have said.

Additionally, state law says the applicant must be chosen at random. Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott told the Herald/Review last month that the process will likely involve a ping-pong ball machine similar to the ones used to choose winning numbers in a lottery.

The applications submitted by each county will get a turn inside the ping-pong ball machine, Elliott said. Each applicant will be assigned a number that corresponds with a ball. If that applicant’s number comes up, that entity will be awarded the dispensary license.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Arizona after voters approved Prop 207 last year. Medical marijuana was approved in 2010.

The applicants in each of the four cities and in unincorporated San Simon are interested in opening recreational marijuana establishments, officials have said.

That’s different than a medical marijuana dispensary.

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 36-2850(18) defines “marijuana establishment” as: “A single retail location at which the licensee may sell marijuana and marijuana products to consumers, cultivate marijuana and manufacture marijuana products.”

State law § 36-2801 defines a “nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary” as “A not-for-profit entity that acquires, possesses, cultivates, manufactures, delivers, transfers, transports, supplies, sells or dispenses marijuana or related supplies and educational materials to cardholders. A nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary may receive payment for all expenses incurred in its operation.”

Then there are entities that may have a dual license. State law defines that as, “An entity that holds both a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary registration and a marijuana establishment license.”

In Sierra Vista for example, there was a consensus at the Jan. 12 work session to allow marijuana establishments in the city as both dual license and stand-alone operations.

The dispensary licensees for each county will be chosen in April, Elliott said, but no date has yet been announced.