The Positives of Marijuana: How Legal Cannabis Benefits Arizonans & Our Economy

Arizona has embraced marijuana legalization, more commonly referred to today as cannabis. Legalization of marijuana has positive effects on the economy and our communities, and the economic benefits of marijuana legalization are considerable for our state. Since 2010, Arizona cannabis businesses have created thousands of new jobs and generated millions in tax revenue. 

The positives of marijuana legalization and the economic benefits of marijuana are reflected in Arizona’s booming legal sales and tax revenues. All legal sales are subject to the state's 5.6 percent sales tax, plus there are additional city and county taxes that range from 0.25 percent to 4 percent, medical cardholder fees, and renewals. The estimated $400 million in sales in 2018 resulted in $22.4 million in tax revenue to the state. 

By 2019, Arizona was on track to reach between $620 - $760 million in medical marijuana sales. That year, a record 82.8 tons of legal marijuana were sold to Arizona’s 232,000+ medical marijuana patients—an increase of more than 25 percent from 2018—meaning the tax revenues grew to around $28 million to fund programs like addiction prevention, substance treatment, teen suicide prevention, mental health programs, and other social initiatives. But increased tax revenue is just the beginning of the economic benefits of marijuana and its positive effects on the economy.

A 2019 report by Leafly stated that legal marijuana is the fastest growing job sector in the United States, calling it “America’s Hidden Job Boom.”

“In 2019, more than 211,000 Americans support their families and communities with legal cannabis jobs. The government doesn’t count them. But we do. Because they matter.” - Bruce Barcott, Leafly

Then came 2020. All bets were off nationwide as cannabis was deemed essential, and legal marijuana sales soared across the country—nearly double 2019 figures, for a nationwide total of an estimated $17.5 billion in legal sales. Additionally, Arizona’s 295,000+ medical marijuana patients legally purchased a whopping 106 tons of marijuana flower, edibles, vapes, and other products—up approximately 27 percent from 2019. But the true economic benefits of marijuana cannot be fully realized without full marijuana legalization. So in November 2020, 60 percent of Arizona voters approved Prop 207, officially legalizing adult recreational use and sales of cannabis products, effective January 1, 2021. While there are still restrictions on quantities and potency for recreational sales, Arizona’s cannabis users can now legally purchase flower, edibles, and other products for consumption or grow up to six plants at home.

In the first ten days of legal adult-use launching on January 22, 2021, recreational sales reached $2.9 million, with the state collecting $226,355 in tax revenue on the sales. Since then, new recreational sales have opened in dispensaries across the state, and 13 new dispensary licenses have been awarded so far, allowing Arizonans to legally purchase and consume cannabis products. The number of Arizona’s medical marijuana patients continues to grow, breaking the 300,000 mark in March. 

“Marijuana sales across Arizona have generated more than $2 million in taxes since the start of the new year, data from the Arizona Department of Revenue found.” - March 15, KPNX 12 News.

“Arizona is ranked No. 10 among the most marijuana-friendly states in the U.S. America is getting more and more marijuana-friendly every year. As of April 2021, 17 states have fully legalized marijuana, 27 states have decriminalized it, and 36 states have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana.” - AZBigMedia.

Recognizing the positives of marijuana legalization, Arizona will continue to recapture much-needed revenue and tax dollars for our local economy, communities, and state. It will help ease the burden on law enforcement and prisons, put an end to disproportionate punishment, and improve job opportunities for all, especially minorities and women. As scientists begin to study the properties of the plant, promising new cannabis-based medical treatments are being researched and developed. Marijuana legalization also benefits the fight to stem the ongoing opioid crisis, easing stress on those suffering dangerous opioid dependency and addictions. No matter how one might feel about marijuana personally, it’s clear that the economic and health benefits of marijuana definitely outweigh the perceived negatives. The numbers don’t lie—and they will continue to rise as more states legalize marijuana in some capacity. With just a few states left to legalize marijuana— marijuana’s positive effects on the economy will continue to grow. With an estimated $92 billion added to the US economy in 2021 alone, sooner or later, the Federal Government will catch up to the states. There are indications that federal legalization could be soon, so stay tuned!