By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver city council voted to approve a proposal which would allow cannabis product delivery. The products would be delivered by third party vendors.

Drivers will be required to track GPS, be restricted on how much cash they can carry, and will scan ID Cards upon delivery. The program is expected to be up and running by the end of the summer.

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(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Also part of the proposal, city councilors approved establishment of consumption clubs which allows clubs to sell small amounts of marijuana to eligible customers. The product would be ingested on the business’ premises.

Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to sign the bill into law on April 20, a well-known holiday among those who enjoy marijuana.

“This is potentially the most massive changes to marijuana rules and regulations since initial legalized sales began,” said Eric Escudero, spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.

The measures also have criteria built in to make sure everyone has an equal chance at opening a business in the booming industry or participate in it. While state sales totaled $2.2 billion and in 2020 and citywide sales were more than $700 million, not everyone has been able to cash in.

In 2020, the department released a survey that found 74.6 percent of licensed cannabis business owners in Denver were white, as well as 68 percent of employees.

At the same time, Latino or Hispanic community members made up 12.7% of owners and 12.1% of employees, and black residents made up about 6% of both categories.

(credit: iStock/Getty)

“When this was rolling out, there was no consideration given to the people that have already been selling in the unregulated market,” said Sarah Woodson, executive director for The Color of Cannabis. “In this sense, rules and regulations were created to lock people out.”

Woodson’s organization advocates for people of color to participate and be included in the marijuana industry. It’s one of several that has worked with the Department of Excise and Licenses over the past two years to bring reform ideas to the city.

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“A lot of people said this would never be done, and we just knew that we could get it done,” Woodson said.

Denver’s new rules regarding marijuana licensing will now reflect the work by those organizations and the city.

That includes a lifting of the cap on the number of store locations, which has been in place since 2016. Now, more licenses will be available, but only to people the state defines as a social equity applicant.

According to the city, an applicant must be a Colorado resident and not have previously owned a marijuana business that had its license revoked. An applicant must also fit one of the following criteria:

  • The Applicant resided for at least 15 years between the years 1980 and 2010 in a census tract designated by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade as an Opportunity Zone or designated as a “Disproportionate Impacted Area”;
  • The Applicant or Applicant’s parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship was arrested for a marijuana offense, convicted of a marijuana offense, or was subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation; or
  • The Applicant’s household income in a year prior to application did not exceed 50% of the state median income as measured by the number of people who reside in the Applicant’s household.

“When you think about who’s benefiting, you’ve also got to think about who’s not, and the people who suffered disproportionately during marijuana prohibition,” said Escudero.

According to Escudero, only social equity applicants will exclusively be able apply for new store, cultivation and manufacturing licenses for a period of six years.

(credit: CBS)

For businesses looking to begin delivery, stores will have to use a transporter for the first 3 years of the program. Those licenses will also be exclusively offered to social equity applicants.

“[If] you think about those people who got into it early, they kind of had exclusivity because they had the money, they had the influence, they had the ability to start these businesses,” Escudero said. “Now with this exclusivity in licensing, those people will have the exclusivity for 6 years.”

Woodson said she believes the new rules will provide good opportunities for many community members, but it won’t totally fix the inequities of the industry. Moving forward, she said criminal justice reform and updates to the zoning for marijuana businesses need to be top of mind.

“Where we’re standing right now in Five Points, it’s a neighborhood of undue concentration, so all the people that have grown up here and work here that would love to open a dispensary or retail store here would not be able to,” Woodson said.

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“If we participate in the industry, we can heal our own community and our own people because we will have the finances to do those kinds of things.”

Conor McCue