The overwhelming majority of social equity marijuana business licenses in Arizona – 25 out of 26 – are now controlled by large companies instead of small startups, according to an analysis by AZCentral.com.
Most of those lottery winners sold their permits, some for as little as $35,000, Celeste Rodriguez of Acre 41 told the news outlet, while other licenses had been tied up in or lost through litigation.
Rodriguez and Acre 41 previously sued the state over its social equity program rules and predicted exactly the outcome that’s been realized, even though the intent of the program was the exact opposite: to give entrepreneurs harmed by the war on drugs a chance to get in on the ground floor of the marijuana trade, not to make already-big companies bigger.
Rodriguez is now lobbying state lawmakers in an attempt to “rectify” the program, AZCentral.com reported.
The news follows an earlier report last fall that, as of October, only four of the 26 original social equity winners had retained a stake in their business permits.
Marijuana chain Story Cannabis runs six of the social equity dispensaries, while others are run by big companies such as:
- Copperstate Farms/Sol Flower
- Mint Dispensary
Story Cannabis has been fighting the winners of one license in court, after the winners signed a financial agreement with Story. When the two licensees refused to sell their majority ownership stake, Story Cannabis forced the pair first into arbitration – which it won – and now the two sides are fighting in court, which could leave the social equity winners $1.5 million in debt if they lose.
Mint’s chief operating officer, Raul Molina, even admitted to AZCentral.com that “the system is not how it should have been,” regarding the outcome of the social equity lottery.
Molina defended Mint’s purchase of social equity licenses, however, and said the company paid “life-changing” sums to the original permit holders.