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First sale of legal recreational marijuana sparks lines in Tucson

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Dozens wait to enter the Harvest Dispensary to purchase marijuana under new recreational rules created by last year's Prop 207. - Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

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A crowds of eager customers lined up outside the first shop to begin selling legal recreational marijuana in Tucson on Friday.

Sales started in Arizona on Friday after state officials approved dozens of license requests across the state, allowing the stores to open sales to anyone 21 or older. Harvest Dispensary in Midtown was the first to ring up a recreational sale in Tucson. Another three stores that have also sold medical marijuana have also received the nod from state authorities, and will begin recreational sales within the next couple of weeks.

About 80 people waited in a line that wrapped around the building at Harvest on East Grant Road on Friday afternoon. A second line of about 30 people contained those waiting to buy marijuana under the medical guidelines, but the recreational line was packed and full of nervous energy, as people waited, looking at their phones or chattering with friends. 

Across Treat Avenue, a man in the parking lot of the Bay Horse Tavern noticed the line and the narrow neighborhood streets packed with dozens of cars.

"What's going on?" he called. 

"Weed!" yelled back one of the men in line.  

While medical marijuana has been available in the state since 2010, during the 2020 election voters considered and approved the Smart and Safe Act, or Proposition 207. The bill, which passed with 60 percent of the vote, effectively decriminalizes recreational use, allowing people over 21 to purchase marijuana and possess it in limited quantities. 

Prop. 207 allows people to grow no more than six marijuana plants in their homes, as long as they're outside of public view, and required the Arizona Department of Health Services to create rules around the regulation of marijuana sales, including licensing retail stores, cultivation facilities and production. The bill also added a 16 percent tax on commercial recreational marijuana sales, in addition to transaction and use taxes. 

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In the Tucson area, four dispensaries received approval from state officials, including Harvest, the Prime Leaf on North Oracle Road, Desert Bloom Releaf Center on East 22nd Street, and Arizona Golden Leaf Wellness on West Ina Road in Marana. 

Statewide, 73 facilities have been approved to sell marijuana under the new recreational rules. 

"It's about time," said 42-year-old Isaac Cooper. "They should have done this a long time ago, but they didn't want to because they wanted more control. We need to do something for the people who have been arrested, and we need to make sure we're free. This is our right." 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported when medical marijuana first became legally available in Arizona.

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