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After years of speculation and discussion, Denver is nearing a new marijuana company licensing program that will give priority to entrepreneurs from communities hit by the war on drugs.
Mayor Michael Hancock signed two bills to revise the city’s marijuana licensing and hospitality programs and created a pot delivery program on April 20. The new rules provide for new pot licenses for social justice applicants through 2027, with the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses holding two public meetings on May 4th and 6th to help potential licensees learn about the new initiatives .
The license exclusivity was introduced to ensure that communities damaged by the drug war can benefit from legal marijuana. Social justice applicants also receive reduced licensing fees and a waived application fee. To qualify, an applicant must be a Colorado resident who has been arrested or convicted of a drug offense, has suffered a civil loss in connection with a drug investigation, or has lived in a designated area of low economic opportunity or high crime. Anyone with a family member who has been exposed to drug offenses would also be eligible.
City officials warned potential social justice licensees of predatory practices that could exploit applicants and their soon-to-be-coveted marijuana business licenses. It also discussed challenges for cannabis entrepreneurs and industry members due to pot’s nationwide illegal status – such as difficulty accessing traditional baking, credit, and limited credit options.
A newly established state fund for social justice marijuana businesses will be set up later this year by the state bureau for economic development and international trade. Approximately $ 4 million of soft loans and grants will be made available through 2024. OEDIT is currently in a regulatory process to allocate the new funds, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity is offering mentoring opportunities to new marijuana business owners at the Commons on Champa Business Center, and plans to provide advisory services to social equity licensees on legal, business, and real estate issues.
According to Joseph Peña, Excise and Licenses cannabis process navigator, the city is expected to begin accepting applications from social justice applicants in June. The department plans to hold more meetings and briefings next month, he adds.
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Hilal is a Metropolitan State University of Denver alumni with a degree in political science. She has written for Denver Life Magazine and 303 Magazine, and is the current cannabis intern for Westword.