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Denver Creates a Marijuana Group to Advise on Equity and Licensing Policies

Apr 29, 2020

Denver Creates a Marijuana Group to Advise on Equity and Licensing Policies

Marijuana licensing in Denver, Colorado, will soon be overseen by a new work group, which will include members from local cannabis businesses and public health authorities.

In an announcement on Monday, April 27, the city’s Department of Excise and Licenses listed several issues the Marijuana Licensing Work Group (MLWG) will consider, including whether Denver should allow cannabis deliveries (which are currently banned) and how the local sector can better involve those from communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition.


Diversifying Denver

Back in May 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill that would allow medical marijuana home deliveries in the state. Come January 1, 2020, the law came into effect, but not in the state’s capital, Denver. The law is subject to local approval and Denver officials still wanted to iron out the policy before enacting it in the city.

“Denver has not decided officially yet whether we will opt in or opt out,” said Eric Escudero, a spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, told CBSDenver in December 2019.

“So many people were negatively impacted, disproportionately over 50-plus years of the war on drugs.," he continued. “So we have to make sure, if we’re going to issue licenses, that people won’t miss out on opportunities to be involved in that business because maybe they were impacted in the past because of the color of their skin or their race.” 

Now, five months into 2020, these issues of historical prejudices and social equity will be discussed by the newly formed MLWG.

In its first meeting, which will be held virtually on May 14 from 1:00-3:30pm local time, the 24-person group will consider how Denver’s retail and cultivation licensing system can be amended to promote more equitable access to entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization.

According to data from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, 88 percent of cannabis business owners in the state identified as Caucasian; 5 percent identified as Hispanic and 2 percent as black. Just over 26 percent of applicants didn’t disclose their ethnicity.

In addition to social equity policies, the MLWG will also discuss whether Denver should enact the Colorado state law permitting social consumption on business premises.

The group’s meetings will continue to take place every two weeks until June 25. Members of the public will be given the opportunity to virtually attend and provide feedback, but dial-in details will only be made available prior to the meetings.

California, the US’s largest legal marijuana market, recently announced a $30 million fund to support equitable business development in jurisdictions throughout California.

 

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