Culture News

Local Spice Retailers Face Uncertain Future If Medical Marijuana Bill Passes

This week began with the news that Proposition 203, Arizona's Medical Marijuana Initiative, is still alive. Though the latest figures show the measure is failing by a little more than 3,000 votes, there are still around 59,000 early and provisional ballots that must be counted by week's end.

We've long thought that the biggest reason spice (aka herbal incense, aka synthetic marijuana) is so popular here is because it's currently legal in Arizona, and pot is not. So if Proposition 203 passes and medical marijuana is legalized, what will that do to the thriving spice industry here?

We talked with some local spice sellers to get their take on the potential business impacts of a Prop 203 passage.

Local company Wisemen Spice has been selling a variety of potent spice blends in several different flavors through smoke shops and Craigslist ads. A spokesman for the company, who didn't want to be named, says he doesn't think a Prop 203 victory will impact his spice business very much.

"Even if medical marijuana is legal, there are still drug tests for recreational users to worry about, and a lot of people may not want others to know they're smoking pot," he says. "Any marijuana proposition could affect anybody's business, but some people prefer spice over marijuana, anyway. We have loyal customers who've been dealing with us and really enjoy the product."

"As spice sellers, we still voted 'yes' on Prop 203," he adds. "We're enthusiasts, whether it's spice or marijuana."

Nick Mathison, manager of Traders Smoke Shop in Peoria, says that if Prop 203 passes, it could have an impact on spice sales. "There's a good chance that people who were using spice to get by would just use medical marijuana instead," he says. "If people could legally buy marijuana, they'd spend their money on that, and not spice. It might take a dent out of the market, but it's been such a hot item for so long that I can't see it dying off completely."

If Prop 203 passes, Mathison says, "Chances are, we'd try to get into the dispensary business. It's a win-win for us either way -- if it passes, we'd try the dispensary approach. If it doesn't pass, we'll still sell spice."

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea