Judge Clears Way for Arizona Social Equity Drawing on Friday

One of the last legal hurdles that threatened to stop Arizona’s “social equity” cannabis license drawing has been cleared.

On Wednesday afternoon, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith denied the last-ditch effort by three social equity applicants to stall the drawing, which is scheduled for Friday.

The lead attorney on the case, Paul Conant, had argued that the drawing for the highly valued — and controversial — licenses should be delayed because the Arizona Department of Health Services had not conducted background checks on the 1,175 applicants who still remain in the pool. That could lead to some licenses being issued to people who would be disqualified, he said.

But Smith disagreed that this necessitated court intervention.

“The Court finds that the Department properly exercised power that Proposition 207 expressly gave it, used proper procedures, and used its discretion when deciding whether to hold the drawing before or after completing the checks,” Smith ruled.

He denied Conant’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the drawing.

The lawsuit, Williams v. Arizona Department of Health Services, was not the first challenge brought against Arizona’s social equity program.

The program was created by Prop 207, the ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in the state of Arizona. Voters directed the state to create a program that promoted ownership of dispensaries by people from communities most harmed by old pot laws.

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