Valley dispensaries see long wait times on second day of recreational sales

Audrey Jensen

| Arizona Republic

On the first full day of recreational marijuana sales in Arizona, about 50 people stood during sprinkling rain in central Phoenix while they waited their turn to purchase marijuana at Curaleaf on Saturday afternoon.

Some stood in line for an hour or more, but were happy to wait since it was their first time purchasing recreational marijuana from a dispensary in Arizona. Medical marijuana patients waited in the same line, but few were upset about the longer-than-usual wait.

The state received approval Friday to sell recreational marijuana to anyone 21 years or older, resulting in long lines Friday and Saturday. Marijuana and products such as edibles and vape pens became legal to sell after Proposition 207 passed in November and it became legal for adults to possess marijuana.

The go-ahead to sell recreational marijuana came earlier than expected for many dispensaries in Arizona, which was the fastest of 15 states to go from voter approval to sales.

Curaleaf, a national medical-marijuana dispensary with eight locations in Arizona, said they’ve seen nearly 3,000 people walk through their doors for the first time since they started selling recreational marijuana on Friday.

“People will have more confidence in consuming cannabis and not have to hide it, especially with items on the black market being unregulated and not tested, it’s pretty dangerous,” said Brianne Dezzutti, a spokesperson for Curaleaf.

Both medical and recreational patients waited in a line while a DJ played music for customers at the entrance of Curaleaf. Though most people waited in the same line outside of the building for about an hour or more, staff prioritized medical patients ahead of others.

Garrett McMillan, 23, a medical marijuana patient, said the line at Curaleaf was long, but she’s glad more people have access to marijuana.

“I think it’s nice that everybody’s able to get access to it, and I hope that it lessens the stigmas around marijuana,” he said.

With the increase in sales, Dezzutti said the central Phoenix dispensary plans to expand its building and hire about 150 people between all eight locations. They also started increasing their orders significantly, Dezzutti said.

Territory Dispensary, which has three locations across Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, started selling recreational marijuana Friday afternoon. About 30 people waited in a line separate from medical-marijuana patients outside the Chandler location.

James Christensen, co-founder of the dispensary, said their traffic has doubled since opening recreational sales. They are also looking to hire 60 employees between all their locations.

“We’re still not able to service everybody,” Christensen said. “We’re not able to provide everybody an opportunity to make a purchase because we have to cut the line off at some point, so our biggest focus is getting those consumers through.”

On Friday evening, Curaleaf and Territory Dispensary said they had to cut off the line shortly before they closed.

“A lot of people right now aren’t sure what they want to purchase,” Dezzutti said. “They’re kind of window shopping, so you want to give them time to look around.”

Jeffrey Hollman, 29, waited in line at Territory Dispensary. He said he just moved to the Phoenix area from Ohio and learned Saturday that Arizona shops were open for recreational sales.

“I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen until March, so I was happily surprised to say the least,” Hollman said, adding that he believes recreational marijuana should be legal in all states.

At Nature’s Medicines dispensary in Phoenix, a small line of about 10 medical marijuana patients stood outside the building on Saturday afternoon.

Adam Woods, a staff member at the dispensary, said they’ve received a lot of calls asking if they’re open for recreational sales, but right now they are still just a medical dispensary.

Woods also said he has noticed more medical patients waiting in line since hearing news of recreational sales at other stores.

Despite an uptick in recreational sales, dispensaries in the Valley said they are still prioritizing medical marijuana patients, who have the option to pre-order at some dispensaries.

“We’re doing as best we can to service all of our existing medical patients as well as welcome the new medical consumers,” Christensen said.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Audreyj101.

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