Social Equity and Marijuana Licenses

During the March 22, 2022 meeting Tucson Mayor Romero asked for a motion to direct City of Tucson staff to move forward with the process of amending the Unified Development Code (UDC). The motion directed the City Manager and staff to initiate the process for amending the UDC to establish a Special Exception process that would allow adult use marijuana establishments to be located within the City under specified conditions. This amendment process is a continuation of the action taken by Mayor and Council on April 6, 2021.

Watch the Mayor and Council Study Session discussion
Legal Action Report

What does the motion taken by Mayor and Council mean?
Planning and Development staff is currently pulling together a list of stakeholders and doing initial work to prepare for a stakeholder meeting to begin the process of creating the Special Exception for the Social Equity Licenses, as directed by Mayor and Council. Staff hopes to host the first stakeholder meeting sometime in May 2022. This will be a code amendment, and generally those amendments take around six months to complete. The amendment must be reviewed by the Planning Commission at a public hearing and be reviewed and voted upon by Mayor and Council at a subsequent public hearing. 


What do you need to know about the history of Social Equity in Arizona?

Social Equity Ownership Program
The Arizona Department of Health Services states the Social Equity Ownership Program was designed to promote the ownership and operation of licensed marijuana establishments by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws. Social equity license holders are required to develop and implement policies to ensure that the marijuana establishment will provide a benefit to one or more communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.

Social Equity Licenses
Twenty-six adult-use marijuana establishment licenses were issued to applicants who qualified under the Social Equity Ownership Program. The Department accepted applications for these licenses from December 1, 2021 through December 14, 2021. All applications were reviewed for administrative and substantive completeness. Applications deemed substantively complete were entered into a random selection to issue the 26 available licenses. The random selection drawing took place April 8, 2022.

General Application Requirements

  • Application must list each individual who is a principal officer or board member of the applying entity
  • No one can be a principal officer or board member on more than two applications.
  • Each principal officer or board member must attest that they do not have an excluded felony offense
  • At least 51% ownership of the applying entity must belong to principal officer(s) or board member(s) who have documentation of completing the required Department-provided training course and meet at least three (3) out of the four (4) social equity eligibility requirements.

Social Equity Eligibility Requirements

  • Income level less than 400% of the poverty level in three of the years between 2016 and 2020
  • Have been personally adversely affected by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws
  • Has had a relative adversely affected by the enforcement of the previous marijuana laws
  • Has lived 3 of the years between 2016 and 2020 at one the three areas identified as being disproportionality affected by the enforcement of previous marijuana law

Disproportionately Impacted Areas
The Arizona Department of Health Services identified areas that were disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws. To apply for a social equity license, 51% of the applying entity must belong to the principal officer(s) or board member(s) who meet three (3) of the four (4) eligibility criteria listed in A.A.C. R9-18-303(B). Residing in one of the identified zip codes for three (3) years between 2016-2020 is one of those four eligibility criteria.


Marijuana Background
Planning and Development Services developed amendments to the Unified Development Code (UDC) to create regulations for adult use marijuana dispensaries following voter approval of Proposition 207, Smart and Safe Arizona. The code amendment was adopted by Mayor and Council on April 6, 2021. The City of Tucson held a Public Hearing to review and make a decision on the Adult Use and Medical Marijuana UDC Code Amendment. At that meeting, the Mayor and Council voted 7-0 to adopt changes to the UDC related to Adult Use and Medical Marijuana.

Mayor and Council signed and adopted the ordinance during that meeting, which became effective on May 6, 2021.
Materials from that public hearing are located on the Mayor and Council Agenda Page.